Let’s face it, our society does not like ‘singletons‘, a word first introduced to us in the brilliantly funny novel Bridget Jones’ Diary. This novel, with its ‘smug married couples‘ was revolutionary when it was released in 1998.
Yet over 20 years on society is still shaming and pitying people for being single, especially women.
When author of the Radio 2 Book Club Pick, The Shelf, Helly Acton found herself divorced at the age of 30 after living a life of a serial monogamist, she realised she really enjoyed the single life. Yet society did not. She says in the introduction to her brand new novel, The Couple:
I wrote The Couple, to shut down the single pity party and put relationships attitudes in reverse. I wanted to imagine an alternative world, where we’re taught that being single isn’t something to be embarrassed of…a society that doesn’t constantly question why women are single…show Mr and Mrs Smuggy McCoupleFace and the general public how ridiculous it is to assume that being single makes you ‘abnormal’ and that being in a relationship is the route to all happiness.
Only released on 27th May, The Couple is smart and revolutionary as it completely turns societal beliefs on their head. In this novel ‘we’re all conditioned to think that being single is the right path. That we can’t possibly be happy if we aren’t living our lives alone, cooking for one, caring for no ones needs but our own.’ In this simple yet brilliant reversal, this book is an unflinching portrayal of the judgemental, shaming society we live in and wrongly buy in to. I loved it for this.
The Couple is Millie’s story who is living the ideal, single life full of friendship, a loving (but slightly pressurising mother) and a job that fulfils her. Millie is on the cusp of achieving her ultimate life goal of becoming chief creative officer of a top, award-winning company before she is 30, something Millie has dreamed of since she was a child
She couldn’t be happier, yet there are a few things that are unsettling her; firstly her close friend and ‘work wife‘ Ruth is now in a couple. Millie cannot understand Ruth when she says ‘How many times do I have to tell people that being in a couple is not an affliction? There’s nothing wrong with us.’
Also Millie can’t seem to get her new colluegue Ben out of her head. He is charming, funny and so easy to be with. However he is a bit odd as he has had a girlfriend in the past…
When Millie is given the chance to work on the Oxytoxin creative campaign, she can’t believe her luck. Oxytoxin is a new pill that prevents people from falling in love. As well as giving Millie the ultimate career boost, this pill is destined to change the world for the better. Yet as she is paired up with Ben to work on the campaign, Millie increasingly struggles to supress her growing attraction towards him. Are these the ‘unnatural’ feelings that science and society are aiming to stop?
And if she did ever choose to become part of a couple, wouldn’t people think of her as odd?
Using wry humour, Helly Acton does not shy away from the ‘well meaning’ condescending and pitying attitudes that many single people are forced to face by strangers, friends and family. Furthermore she uses her narrative as a vehicle to showcase how society discriminates against single people and how societal judgements can be so isolating.
For some The Couple may be uncomfortable reading, but I found it refreshing, thought-provoking and clever.
Thank you Helly Acton for this great read. Also thank you to Tracy Fenton from Compulsive Readers for inviting me to be part of The Couple blog tour. To follow the tour and read the reviews from my fellow book bloggers, see below. Thank you also to Zaffre Books and NetGalley for arranging my advanced digital copy of The Couple.
The Couple was released on 27th May 2021, so is available now to read.
Happy reading everyone! 🙂