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Fly in the Ointment

3.55  ·  Rating Details ·  76 Ratings  ·  18 Reviews
Guilt's in the eye of the beholder. So you tell me what you think you'd have done. You be the judge

When, like her cold and indifferent husband, Lois's old life vanishes into thin air, she can't help snatching at the opportunity to come alive.

There's only one fly in the ointment: Janie Gay, the feckless and spiteful mother of her wayward son's child. But as Lois takes her s
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published March 25th 2008 by Bantam Press
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Mirren Jones
Jul 30, 2014 Mirren Jones rated it liked it
A short novel; an unusual, painful, at times horrible, story, perhaps not surprising given child neglect is at its heart. Fine writes simply, but skilfully and elegantly. The story builds up as she weaves in the transformations and multiple deceits played out by the main character, Lois, with the spiteful actions of Janie-Gay - the ex-partner of Lois' dead son.

Why I didn't like it more is because Lois is not a very nice person, and being inside her head (the book is written from the first perso
May 05, 2014 Karen rated it really liked it
A short, compelling and uncomfortable novel, it challenges our attitudes and beliefs as to whether some people are beyond hope and redemption. Taking this even further, it poses the unthinkable question as to whether it would be better if such people were dead. In the process it touches upon issues such as social-class, weakness and dependence. The main character, Lois, is manipulative, deceitful and scheming, yet I could not help but sympathise with her and the wrong choices she makes, ...more
Brett Hetherington
Jan 31, 2014 Brett Hetherington rated it it was ok
[An edited version of this article was first published in Catalonia Today magazine, April 2013.]

In this story the dangers are not so physical (at least most of the time), but the psychological scars of personal tragedy are equally clear to see. In this very English of stories, Lois is a mother who faces a string of ethical questions in her life and largely chooses the dishonest options. She wants to somehow make-up for her perceived failures as a mother (and a wife) but doesn't quite want to tr
Mar 22, 2016 Lesley rated it did not like it
I found this really disappointing. It's a story of drug addiction, child neglect and desertion, but it's written in an irritating, throw- away comic vein. It's not even black comedy, it's just a bizarre narrative that is so facile the characters become meaningless, and you don't care what happens to them.
This was written by Anne Fine, whose book "Madame Doubtfire" was turned into such a huge Hollywood hit. I understand she writes children's fiction, and this would explain the way this book is wr
Feb 24, 2009 Anne rated it it was amazing

I finished this short novel today - only 220 odd pages but incredibly well written.

A story narrated by a lonely, middle-aged woman who has lost both her son and her husband and has nothing much to give and also gets not much of anything from life - it should make pretty grim reading but the author races the story along with touches of humour and it's almost gossipy in the telling.

It's difficult to write much without giving the story away - but it really is an irresistible read, very difficult t
Aug 02, 2012 Joanna rated it liked it
even if it is not a masterpiece - still worth reading, very real (unfortunately) story about the world and situations we usually try not to notice, but look around and that is what you can see; young, weak, lost people looking for wrong solutions, mothers so self centered that their children are only a bargain... so sad and so well written. well done, Anne Fine!
Sep 05, 2012 Anna rated it liked it
I really enjoyed this book right through the the last 20 or so pages. The story built well and the characters were good, it was engrossing and affecting. I felt the end was a bit sudden though. Not unexpected, as hints are given right at the start, but I didn't feel it fit quite right with the rest of the novel.

Still, well worth a read.
Apr 22, 2013 Katie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I registered a book at!
Nov 27, 2010 Michele rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
This is more like it for a good read. A well constructed story with no pretentious airs but still manages to give you lots to think about.
Jun 16, 2008 Nina rated it it was ok
This book was a fun, easy read and featured a healthy does of black humour but it didn't leave me with any significant emotional impression. A good book to borrow.
Santa Ze.
Aug 27, 2011 Santa Ze. rated it it was amazing
Excellent book!
Easy to read and keeps attention till the end.
Really loved this book in it's simplicity.
Jan Bailey
Feb 08, 2016 Jan Bailey rated it really liked it
A good read. interesting personal dilemma for the heroine. Raises a lot of issues.Somewhat fanciful.
Fami H
Apr 06, 2012 Fami H rated it liked it
"In any case, Guilt isn't minted fresh!" - That's the one line I can't forget from the novel I read 4 years ago!
Mike Finn
Apr 10, 2015 Mike Finn rated it did not like it
Unrealistic, dull, horrible people treating each other horribly.
Obviously not a style or theme I appreciate!
Louise Armstrong
Aug 03, 2011 Louise Armstrong rated it liked it
Well written, as usual but child neglect is so painful to read about & I couldn't believe in the main character.
Aug 08, 2011 Rosslyn rated it really liked it
An unusual book which really gets you into the mind of the central character. Reminds me of Sebastian Faulkes Engleby though not as complex and sinister.
Antony Bennett
Jul 11, 2012 Antony Bennett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good read, written in a simple, elegant style. Some of the main character's actions were a little difficult to believe, but that didn't detract from my enjoyment of the book.
Amy Blickett
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Apr 07, 2011
Kate North
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Amy rated it it was amazing
Jan 02, 2014
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Jill rated it really liked it
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Katie rated it really liked it
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Joanne Mcdougall
Joanne Mcdougall rated it really liked it
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Shirley Zammit
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Though readers often find themselves inadvertently laughing aloud as they read Anne Fine's novels, as she herself admits, "a lot of my work, even for fairly young readers, raises serious social issues. Growing up is a long and confusing business. I try to show that the battle through the chaos is worthwhile and can, at times, be seen as very funny." In 1994, this unique combination of humour and ...more
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