Book review: A Better Man by Leah McLaren

Monday, 9 November 2015

I'm doing another book review today! I was sent a free copy via Britmum's Book Club, to read and review. So, here is my honest opinion ...


I didn't like it that much.

I'll explain the premise: Nick is a very wealthy, successful man, with a beautiful wife, twins, a huge house, and a (long-suffering) nanny. All fine, on the surface. However, he is desperately unhappy in his marriage, and decides that he wants a divorce. He approaches his friend Gray, a divorce lawyer, for advice. Gray basically tells him that, if Nick decides to divorce now, his wife Maya would be entitled to almost everything (as she is a stay-at-home mother to the twins). However, he could get a better deal if he could prove to the courts that he had been a good husband all along, as they might be a little more sympathetic toward him.

So, Nick sets about being the 'perfect' husband. He goes from barely seeing his children, flirting incessantly with other women and ignoring his wife, to being more attentive. He starts to leave the office slightly earlier than normal. And so the ice that has built between Nick and Maya starts to thaw. And, lo and behold! (This is the part that had me rolling my eyes slightly) Nick realises how much of an idiot he has been, and that he loved his wife all along, and he should have treated her better in the first place.

But then, of course, Maya finds out that Nick had been planning to divorce her, and the whole attempt at saving their marriage was a sham.

I found this book immensely frustrating. I really enjoyed the writing and thought some of the prose was quite lovely. Like this little section:

'Gray may be the only person who understands the evolution of Nick. The change and where it came from. She realises it is this - not the new job or the whisky - that's causing the humming in her veins, that accelerated feeling that she has had for the past few days of hovering slightly above earth, moving just above the legal human speed limit.'

That was what kept me reading - the descriptive passages.

The characters, however? I didn't warm to them.

I just felt that all the adults in this book (except maybe the nanny) were immensely selfish. I hated the way that Nick treated his wife and children. I hated the way that Maya was so ... ALL or nothing. It was either look after the twins and shut out her husband, or ignore the twins completely. There was no realism to it, no balance. I disliked the fact that Maya dropped all her principles at once - she was very much a stereotypical 'earth mother' to begin with. It just felt a bit false. I disliked Gray entirely.

And I felt for the twins (even though the descriptions of them and their behaviour made me smile a bit. In fact, they were probably the most sympathetic and realistic characters in the whole book! Along with the nanny.)

I just felt it lacked redemption. The ending didn't make up for it, really. The characters 'grew', I suppose, but they went about it in the most selfish way possible, whilst barely communicating with each other.

However, reading the other reviews suggests to me that I am in the minority on this one, and that people seemed to like the observations it makes on modern marriage. Usually, I can suspend my disbelief when reading a book, but on the whole this felt a little false to me. However, the writing itself was very good. Which almost made it more frustrating to read ;)

A Better Man by Leah McLaren is published by Corvus Books and you can buy it here.

Thank you Britmums for the free copy!


  1. Great you have a different perspective. It would be dull if we all agreed. I loved the description too.

  2. I so nearly didn't finish it. I didn't even like the twins. It did reach a more interesting point for me, and I enjoyed the end. I really like your honest review.


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