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Someone Like You
Cathy Kelly
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INTRODUCTION

Hannah, Emma, and Leonie are three women at a critical turning point in their lives. When they meet on an Egyptian holiday, they find themselves changing in completely unexpected ways.

Hannah is young and beautiful and longs to be free of the heartbreak she still feels from a failed relationship. Her goal is to build a life she can be proud of, which includes a high-powered career without a man supporting her. But the temptation of love may prove too strong.

Emma has been married to the love of her life for two years. Happy with each other, Emma longs to complete her family with a child. Overwhelmed by her demanding parents and depressed over her inability to her conceive, Emma feels she has no one to turn to.

Leonie is a strong, big-hearted divorcee and the mother of three teenagers. Between her ex-husband's new wife, her children's problems, and her own intense desire to find true love, Leonie must overcome her insecurities and find the courage to go out and make her life what she wants it to be.

Meeting once a month despite the distance between them, Hannah, Emma, and Leonie become the best of friends. They discover that their lives may take unexpected turns but their friendship, stronger than any other bond, can help each of them find the happiness she so longs for.

 

ABOUT CATHY KELLY

Cathy KellyCathy Kelly is a bestselling author in the U.K. and her native Ireland. A former journalist, she's now a full time writer. Someone Like You is her eagerly awaited U.S. debut. Cathy lives in County Wicklow, Ireland, where she is writing her next novel.

 

AN INTERVIEW WITH CATHY KELLY

Hannah is an American woman living in Ireland. Why was it important to have an American in the mix? Do you see her as ultimately different than Leonie and Emma?

Ireland is a multi-cultural society and over the past ten years, there's been a huge increase in the number of people from all over the world living there. So many of my friends come from the four corners of the globe, including America, and it seemed like a good idea to include a character who wasn't Irish. Also like a lot of Irish people, I've a huge affinity with America. Hannah is only different from Leonie and Emma in that she's a different individual: her origin doesn't make any difference. She has the same hopes and ideals, she's a lovely, kind, funny woman who wants a good life and happiness. That dream is universal.

Who are your favorite writers? What kinds of books and authors inspire you to write?

I adore Jane Austen, Anita Shreve, Maeve Binchy. To be honest, I could be here all day telling you about writers. I never stop reading, which is why I don't spend enough time vacuuming! I'm writing this in my study which is covered in books (a lot of the floor, to be honest!) I love autobiographies and find books about China fascinating. I try and read historical/factual books to educate myself. I obviously didn't pay enough attention in history in school!

Which of the three women in Someone Like You do you relate to the most? Or are they an amalgam of different aspects of your own personality?

People do assume that you create characters by taking different aspects of yourself and mixing it all up, but you don't. I really make up characters. My novels are character-driven rather than plot-driven, so the hard part in the beginning is creating these very different women and giving them their voices. When it comes to which woman I related to most, I honestly related to them all in different ways.

As a columnist, what were the major challenges facing you when you sat down to write fiction? Did your columns inspire your fiction?

When I was a columnist, I worked for a tabloid paper which meant you had very limited space. When I started writing novels, I had to learn to write lots. On the days when I went into the newspaper office, the subeditors (who lay out newspaper pages) used to go mad because my articles were too long! I worked as the paper's agony aunt for five years but I never used a letter as the basis for a book. This would have been wrong, a betrayal of the people who wrote to me. It did show me that the world is a strange and often sad place, and that truth is genuinely stranger than fiction.

Have you considered a sequel to Someone Like You? Or do you see the end of this novel as the "happily ever after" that the three characters are seeking?

I've never written a sequel and I don't see myself writing a sequel to Someone Like You. Although to paraphrase James Bond 'never say never.' And I do see this as happy ever after. Is that schmaltzy? I am a romantic at heart!

What are you working on now?

I'm currently working on my sixth novel which is the story of a family, three sisters and their mother. To the outside world, these women have it all. But behind closed doors, it's another story...

 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
(with responses from Cathy Kelly)

  1. Emma wants a child more than anything but she does not tell Pete about her worries and concerns. In fact, she does not confide in anyone until she meets Leonie and Hannah. What about her two new friends enables her to trust them so quickly? In what ways do they help her? What void do Leonie and Hannah fill in Emma's life?

    A: Sometimes it's easier to talk to strangers, isn't it? When you've got something that's chipping away at your soul and you desperately want to discuss it, it's easier to tell people who've never met you before because they have no preconceptions about you or how you're supposed to behave. Emma can't tell her parents how she feels, and her sister, Kirsten, is so self-obsessed that there's no point telling her, either. Emma longs to tell Pete her fears but there's this great terror inside her that if she talks about the notion of infertility, it will be true: she will be infertile. Talking about it will have made it true. By keeping it a secret, she's allowing herself not to face the reality of her situation. Hannah and Leonie come into her life at a time when she really needs good friends who don't judge but really support her. If Emma had a better relationship with her mother or her sister, perhaps they'd fill this role of being a good friend in her life.

  2. In what ways does Leonie go about trying to fulfill her ultimate goal of finding true love? Why was Ray not right for her? What factors finally motivate her to be pro-active in her search?

    A: Leonie's the sort of utter romantic who cries buckets every time she sees Gone With The Wind and who believes that the perfect soulmate is out there for everyone: she'd love to imagine that her soulmate is a cross between Mel Gibson and George Clooney! When her marriage slowly deteriorated so that the bond between her and Ray was almost that of brother and sister, she took the brave step of saying 'No, I want more from life' and split with Ray. They married young, when they were still growing and learning. Sadly, when they finally grew up, they realised they had changed too much to be the perfect match. Leonie sometimes feels brave for having divorced Ray, and other times, she feels scared that she'll never find true love, which is all the more awful because Ray has found loveand she thought he'd be the one who'd be depressed and hopeless without her. What motivates her to seek a man to love is her children growing up. She's devoted her life to them but she sees them slowly, inexorably moving away from her and she realizes that she has to find some 'me-time'. She's also shocked by Ray's re-marriage. If he can do it, she reasons, so can she.

  3. Hannah, Emma, and Leonie become like a family to each other. What familial role does each woman take on? Compare their "family" to the actual families in the book. Why do these three friends need each other for support so badly?

    A: Leonie is the mother in the family, that's for sure. She comforts and takes care of the others. While Hannah and Emma are a bit like sisters: they love each other but they can squabble. Yet they care deeply about each other and they're not judgmental. I know, I've used that word again but I think a big difference between the women's mini-family and their real families (Emma and Hannah's families) is the fact that the women utterly support each other no matter what. Emma's family have very rigid ideas about how she should behave. That means that they probably don't know how to spell the words unconditional support! Hannah's family are different in that her mother is a strong person, but due to the problems when she was growing up, Hannah has deliberately distanced herself from them. The three women create a support system for each other, which is so important.

  4. At the beginning of the book, Emma is very timid and even a bit afraid of her parents. How does her view of herself change throughout the book? What happens in her life that makes her stronger? In what ways does this strength help her?

    A: Emma is like two separate people, in some ways. At work, she's clever and efficient. At home with her parents, she's still the child they don't quite approve of. Kirsten, her sister, is the much-adored child who can do no wrong.

    Thanks to a combination of her new friends, facing up to the fact that she might never have a baby of her own, and a little bit of therapy, Emma finds herself. She learns how to be an adult when she's with her parents. For so long, they've had power over her but she reclaims that back. I love the fact that she finds the courage that's been buried in her for so long.

  5. Hannah tells Leonie and Emma that she wants a life free of men, and wants to concern herself only with her career. What about Felix makes her change her mind so completely and abruptly? Did you believe that Felix was the right man for Hannah? Why or why not?

    A: Felix is this gloriously handsome charmer, the sort of man Hannah has spent her life avoiding. She doesn't want to trust men because she thinks they let you down. After Harry hurt her so badly, she is determined not to get involved with another man again. But that was an intellectual rather than an emotional decisionwhen she meets Felix, all intelligent thought flies out the window and she starts thinking emotionally. And Felix overwhelms her. He is like a movie star man come to life and she can never quite believe he's with her. Sadly, he's the wrong sort of man for Hannah because he doesn't understand that Hannah needs to feel safe, cherished and protected. That doesn't mean she's a wimp who faints at the sight of a vicious dog. She's a strong woman but she needs a strong, good man as her partner. Felix just doesn't measure up.

  6. Leonie is a strong woman, but she hides behind her hair and make-up, afraid to show her true face to the world. In what ways was going to the beauty salon with Hannah and Emma a metamorphosis for Leonie?

    A: Leonie's a wonderfully kind and gentle woman who hides her insecurities behind lots of lipgloss and mascara. Behind her strong exterior, there beats a very gentle, vulnerable heart. I think she's always felt that she has to keep this facade up but when she goes to the beauty salon, and sees that she doesn't need to hide behind cosmetics anymore, it's a rebirth for her. She can enjoy being herself, there's no need to hide anymore. I think that many of us women hide behind facades: we try to be what we think others want. Leonie finally finds out that what she really is, is OK, and that she can be herself.

  7. Emma's relationship with her family, especially her father, takes a drastic turn when her mother becomes ill. Discuss the complicated family dynamic in Emma's family. In what ways does it change? In what ways does the shift in power change Emma as a person?

    A: To Emma's parents, she's still a child. They scold her and try to control her in some ways. For example, her father will never let her forget the fact that he loaned her money for a deposit on a house. Even though Emma and Pete are paying the money back, her father likes to tell people about it. He's very domineering and demands control but Emma is too scared to stand up to him. Her mother's illness changes all that because when her father refuses to be realistic about the illness, Emma can see that she has to be strongfor her mother's sake. That highlights her father's intrinsic weakness. Once she's stood up to him, it's like breaking free from prison. Emma has freed herself and has a powerful sense of achievement for having done so. It's only when she's confronted her father that she can face up to discussing her need for a baby and her fears that she might be infertile.

  8. Discuss Hannah's return to America for Christmas. How does the trip help or hinder her? How does her gesture of coming home change her relationship with her mother? How does it change the way she views her family, particularly her father? In what ways does she fall into the same traps as her mother when it comes to men?

    A: Roots are incredibly important in life because they help us understand ourselves, what we are and where we came from. Hannah has been running away from her roots because she thought that was the way to make a new life and never have to see her father again or deal with how his drinking affected her childhood. It's when she comes home for Christmas that she can make sense of it all. Her father's not a monster: he's just a weak person who could never deal with his alcohol addiction. Her mother's not a fool for staying with him: she loved him and she has chosen that as her life. Hannah manages to make peace with her father, and, peace with her childhood. She's not blaming anyone for anything, she's accepting what happened and trying to understand it. Then, she can move on into her future.

  9. Emma wants a child very much, yet it is Hannah that becomes pregnant. How does motherhood change Hannah? How does it change her relationship with Felix? With Emma? Hannah is very worried that she will not be a good mother. Do you think she is?

    A: Life is full of irony and it's ironic that Hannah, who doesn't have the slightest interest in children, becomes pregnant. But far from not wanting the baby, she discovers a powerful maternal instinct and she adores her baby. She wants to make sure that Claudia has everything in life. Hannah doesn't want Claudia to have a hopeless father, though, which is why she has the strength to walk away from Felix. She doesn't want to bring her beloved daughter with a weak man, a man like her father.

  10. Leonie notices Abby's eating disorder long before she says anything. What do you make of the way she handled Abby's problem? In what ways did she ultimately help her daughter? In what ways did Fliss? As a large women herself, how did it effect Leonie to find her daughter was starving herself? How did it change her image of herself? How did it effect her image of Abby?

    A: Leonie's terrified that her own mixed up problems with her body image could have somehow caused Abby's eating disorder. So she feels horrendous guilt, but she's also aware that she has to tread carefully. Rushing in and confronting Abby could be the worse thing to do. Leonie needs to understand a bit more about Abby's problem, which I think is wise. When I worked as a newspaper agony aunt, I dealt with a lot of eating disorder situations, from both sides. Experts told me that it's important not to rush in and desperately try and 'fix' the person quickly. Eating disorders are very complex and aren't a simple matter of somebody who won't eat or who is using laxatives. It's a more deeply-rooted problem, it's a life problem really. Leonie feels as if she's failed Abby and because of that, lets her go to visit her father when she really wants Abby to stay with her. She feels like a bad mother, which Ray reinforces by yelling that she couldn't have been watching their kids properly if this could have happened. Fliss helped Abby because she supported her but didn't try to be her mom. And ultimately Leonie helped Abby because her daughter realised that she had the same strength of character as Leonie and could come through this.

  11. In what ways is David more suited for Hannah than Felix? Why does it take her so long to realize that David is the man she really loves? Given the way that Hannah felt about Felix, do you think it is possible for her to be happy with David? Why or why not?

    A: David's her rock, a solid, kind man who will think of her first. She's infatuated with Felix by the time she realizes that David likes her, she's dating Felix. Because Hannah's a very all-or-nothing kind of person, she can't let herself imagine being with David when she's still going out with Felix, so she blocks David out of her mind. And when it's over with Felix, she feels far too bruised by the split to ever imagine a man will look twice at her again, especially David. I think she's going to be utterly happy with David because he's a very special man and he's much more than a handsome face, like Felix. David is a real person, not a matinee idol who is selfish to the core.

  12. Compare Doug to the men that Leonie has her blind dates with. What about Doug is different? What about Doug appeals to Leonie? And given her strong desire to find the right man, why is she blind to the possibility of Doug as her soulmate for so long?

    A: Leonie has this vision of love that comes like a flash of lightning. That's why she can't see love creeping up on her via Doug. She is such an old romantic that she thinks she'll meet this wonderful guy and KAPOW, it'll be love. It takes her a while to understand that love has been under her nose all along and that love can develop from a real friendship. Also, Leonie doesn't have a very high self-image, so she can't imagine that someone like Doug would find her attractive. Her only failing is her lack of belief in herself. The men she meets on her blind dates are all nice men but Leonie is trying too hard to find love with them.

  13. Emma is overjoyed to find, towards the end of the book, that she is finally pregnant. Hoe does she reconcile this happiness with the sadness she feels about her mother's sickness?

    A: She's deeply sad that her mother is slowly being lost to her because of her illness, but she's overjoyed at the thought of this new life inside her. Real life is like that, isn't it? In the midst of the worst pain, there can be hope for the future.

  14. In what ways does Hannah, Emma, Leonie's friendships evolve throughout the novel? What are the things that pull them apart? What brings them together? Why is the friendship so important to all three women?

    A: The three women meet at a point in their lives when they really need friends. Hannah and Emma particularly, haven't had many really good women friends, which is why their friendship evolves to such a deep one during the story. Emma and Hannah, with their sisterly relationship, go through a difficult time when Hannah becomes pregnant and changes into an earth mother, something Emma finds hard to deal with. But their friendship runs too deep to falter despite this rift. True friends can cope with such problems. The knowledge that they are genuinely there for each other is what brings them together by the end.

  15. Of Hannah, Emma, and Leonie, which woman did you relate to the most? Which characteristics did you admire in each? In their circumstances, how could they have handled things better? Discuss the ways that these three friends are unique and what about them, as women, make them the same.

    A: When you write a novel, it's impossible to say which character you related to most. I wish I was as tough as Hannah and as good a cook as Leonie! Seriously, I related to them all because I couldn't write about them and not relate to them. I admired all of their strength and the way they faced up to tough things in life. When it comes to how they'd have handled things better, if I was Hannah, I would never have gone off with Felix! I would have figured that guy out sooner! I hope! Women friends are incredibly important to me, so the theme I wanted to get across within their story, was that your women friends can be an alternative family. Families are amazing, but friends can make your life even fuller. The ideal mix is great family and great friends.