Review: 'Can't Take My Eyes Off You' by Clare Dowling (2013)
Clara's been away for too long. So, after ten years in London and with boyfriend Matthew in tow, she arrives home in Castlemoy, a town with nineteen pubs and a shiny new motorway to civilisation. Her family welcome them with open arms but Jason, her long-ago-ex, seems to have old scores to settle and it's not before Clara finds herself being watched, followed and manipulated from afar.
As her dream of happily-ever-after begin to shatter, Clara decides it's time to wrestle her life back before it's too late...
At the end of 2013, I unexpectedly received a review copy of Clare Dowling’s latest release, ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.’ The novel was released in November and I remember seeing it mentioned on Twitter and other book blogs (also because the title immediately reminded me of the song by Frankie Vallie, I’m not the only one, right?). I hadn’t read any of Clare Dowling’s works before, but I liked the look and sound of ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ and was looking forward to checking it out!
Thirty-something Clara and her boyfriend Matthew decided to leave their happy life in London, including good friends, a lovely apartement, and steady jobs, behind to move to Clara’s hometown in Ireland, Castlemoy. They’ve found a wonderful home that is large enough for the both of them and possible children in the future, and it also means Clara is now closer to her mother Anita, who is dealing with diabetes and the life changes this requires, and her sister Roisin, who is dealing with her own personal troubles which involve her girlfriend Catherine and the arrival of a new old enemy in town. However, Clara has her own troubles to deal with when she keeps bumping into her ex, Jason, whom she didn’t split up with in good circumstances. At first, he seems to be supportive and interested in her life, but this quickly changes…
It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with this book and the characters at its core. Clara is a great protagonist and I quickly found myself rooting for her. She and Matthew make an amazing couple and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about them and their strong relationship. There are also some well worked-out secondary characters in the novel, such as Clara’s mother Anita (who made me laugh out loud with her specific ways and her love for food) and her sister Roisin, and a fascinating friendly group of neighbours who really added another fun layer to the story for me. This in contrast to the character of Jason, the boyfriend with whom Clara broke things off with 10 years earlier, who managed to really send the chills down my spine. Clare Dowling’s descriptions are spot on and she manages to set the scene perfectly, making the reader feel what Clara is feeling at a particular moment, whether it’s joy or fear.
After reading the blurb, I initially expected the main focus of the story to be the broken relationship between Jason and Clara, and his obsession with her now she has come back to Ireland. However, this didn’t take up most of the space in the novel. I wasn’t necessarily disappointed by this, though, because I thoroughly enjoyed the book and the subplots in it. ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ is a gripping and funny novel with a slightly darker and more serious side to it as well; certainly a read I’d recommend to people who are looking for chick lit but with a twist!