What is an ‘easy read’?: The Reinvention of Martha Ross by Charlene Allcott

Title: The Reinvention of Martha Ross
Author: Charlene Allcott
Year published: 2018
Publisher: Bantam Press
Genre: Contemporary romance
Should you read this? Maybe, if you want a comfort read.

After leaving her crappy marriage, Martha Ross is in a pickle. She has chronically low self-confidence, but with this break-up she decides it’s time to become the woman she has always wanted to be. With help from her friends, this story follows Martha as she attempts to rebuild a life for her and her baby son: the life she’s always dreamed of, complete with her own business, the fitness to run half-marathons, a side hustle as a singer and the perfect man.

This book is ok. It’s slightly too long with a predictable storyline that wraps itself up a bit too swiftly and neatly. The main character is scatty, self-centred and sometimes relatable, which some readers might find endearing but to me just came off as irritating. Having said that, there are some sweet, funny moments in this book, and it’s exactly what I needed after a sad week. It was a real easy read.

But what exactly is an ‘easy read’?

I knew what I was getting with this book. It doesn’t pretend to be anything it isn’t, and I was grateful for that. I didn’t mind a predictable storyline; I didn’t want anything that was going to make me think too hard or surprise me, and certainly nothing that would make me even more sad. Spoiler alert: of course the ‘perfect’ man Martha is chatting to on ‘Linger’ is going to turn out to be an arse, and of course the cute guy she sits next to at work who makes her snort-laugh and is always there for her but who she had never considered in a romantic way will end up being her soulmate. It’s cheesy, yes – but who doesn’t like a bit of cheese when they’re down?

I don’t think ‘easy reads’ have less intrinsic value than books that make you work harder or think more deeply. There’s a lot to be said for books that help you zone out and make you smile, even if they don’t necessarily introduce you to any new ideas (not that easy reads can’t do that too). Easy reads are the literary version of comfort food; in the same way that I might gobble down a big plate of mac’n’cheese when I’m blue, so with a clichéd romance novel. You don’t eat mac’n’cheese because you want something good for you; you know it’s fattening and there’s not a vitamin in sight, but you need something that’s good for your soul – something warming and stodgy and consistent. I also don’t think that easy reads are easy to write; just because they don’t serve mac’n’cheese at Le Gavroche doesn’t mean that the chef who made it isn’t talented. Is it tasty? Are you enjoying it? Then it’s good, right? Ok, maybe they were a bit heavy-handed with the cheese, but cheese is not the worst thing to overdo when making something for someone feeling low. In that case, more cheese may be just what the doctor ordered.

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