Millie is a perfectionist. She’s happy, she’s successful and, with a great support network of friends and family (and a very grumpy cat), she’s never lonely. She loves working at a big tech firm and is on track be promoted to her dream role. The last thing she needs is romance messing up her perfectly organised world.
Besides, normal people just don’t have romantic relationships. Everyone knows that being in a couple is a bit . . . well, odd. You know, like having a pet snake or referring to yourself in the third person. Why rely on another person for your own happiness? Why risk the humiliation of unrequited love or the agony of a break-up? No, Millie is more than happy with her conventional single life.
So, when Millie lands a new project at work, launching a pill that prevents you falling in love, it seems like the opportunity of a lifetime. That is, until she starts working with Ben. He’s charming and funny, and Millie feels an instant connection to him.
Will Millie sacrifice everything she believes in for love?
After a couple of deep intense novels The Couple was the perfect antidote, it had lightness to it but some serious thought provoking ideas that definitely set my head reeling.
We met Millie, successful, intelligent and happy living the single life with just a cat, all be it an antisocial cat for company. She had friends June and Ruth, her wonderful partners in crime and perhaps that was where the hint of change began to appear as Acton placed Ruth in a relationship and anomaly in society.
An anomaly you might say? What was wrong with that? In Acton’s world relationships were very much against the expected norm. Couples were derided, charged more living expenses and positively discouraged. Instead you were supposed to use the App Slide to have that fleeting connection, to serve a base need. It seemed to be a world Millie embraced, totally believed in, as Acton gave her the certainty that every day would follow a familiar routine, get up, walk to work, grab the same coffee from the same place, eat the requisite lunch on a particular day. Then Acton threw in a curve ball, a new employee Ben, a new product that promised to cure the heartbroken, to ensure the single life was forever, never to be breached.
Was it something we would have wanted, was the life Millie strived to achieve really attainable, sustainable or indeed what was wanted?
Ben was the light of the novel, the catalyst that Acton cleverly used to open up a new Millie, a Millie that glimpsed a different life but railed against it. You could sense Millie’s fear of being swamped by another person, of losing her identity, her individuality, of what friends would think, the attitude of her work colleagues and the promise of the longed for promotion disappeared.
It was fun and interesting to watch Acton put her through the veritable wringer of emotion and angst. It made me laugh, made me frustrated made me look at my own situation and think what I would do or want. Yes the singular life, the ordered predictably or everyday appealed but where was the spontaneity, freedom to show off the person you loved, to enjoy a relationship, the good and the heartbreak that perhaps made us all the better for experiencing.
And this is what I liked so much about The Couple, Actins’s ability to entertain, but infuse her narrative with a subversive serious aspect.
I would like to thank Zaffre Books for a copy of The Couple to read and review and to Compulsive Readers for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.
About the author
Helly Acton is a copywriter from London with past lives in Zimbabwe, the Middle East and Australia. She studied Law at King’s College London before following a more creative path into advertising. At 26, Helly took a career break to travel in Africa and Asia, before landing in Sydney. Six years and one life-affirming break up later, she returned home and threw herself into online dating in the city. Helly uses this experience as a single woman in her early thirties – torn between settling down and savouring her independence – as a source of inspiration.
Helly currently lives in Berkshire with her husband, Chris, their little boy, Arlo, and their little dog, Milo. Sometimes, she gets their names mixed up.