There are some books that are destined not to be remembered and allmenarebastards.com falls into that category. Not because it’s bad. It’s okay. But because it isn’t timeless. It’s about a very specific period in time. It’s a little like the Sue Grafton books with Kinsey Milhone dropping off reels of film for photographs to be developed. It was published in 2000 and its foray into the online world is dated now – the sounds of the dial up modem, having to disconnect from the internet to make a phone call, people having “homepages”. The world has come a long way since then.
Gemma, our main character, and Sarah are typical late twenty-somethings, unlucky in love, drowning their sorrows in Friday night margaritas and keeping a list of every bastard who has ever done them wrong. It’s twenty pages long, stained and falling apart, so to ensure its continued existence, Gemma decides to put it on her homepage. Overnight, it becomes an internet sensation. Before long, it’s a website of its own (with the same name as the book) and Gemma gives up her freelance graphic design job to become its full-time administrator as the advertising revenue begins rolling in.
In fact, Gemma is doing so well and the website is so successful that she takes on a PA, a man named Chris who is so efficient that she now has plenty of time to become even more convinced that all men are bastards as she reads through the submissions from women around the world. From the discourteous to the downright criminal, it seems like every woman has a story to tell. And when Brett, Gemma’s ex-fiancé, calls to tell her he’s getting married to somebody else and to ask her to take down his entry from the website, it’s the last straw.
But, of course, not all men are bastards and some women are bastards and we take a convoluted course for Gemma to come to that realisation through her slowly developing feelings for Chris. But they’re almost too slow to develop. In fact, if it wasn’t for an online chat with an anonymous contributor to the website, she probably wouldn’t have even thought about Chris like that. Because he’s aloof and infuriating and refuses to tell her anything about himself. Even after having read the book, I’m still not sure I feel like I know anything about him or why she would fall for him.
The whole book is written like the author is having a conversation with the reader, very informal, very relaxed, very self-deprecating. But it’s a conversation with a late twenty-something who still hasn’t quite figured out hygiene or how much alcohol she can drink or that she doesn’t know everything or the fact that she doesn’t actually need a man to make her life complete.
allmenarebastards.com falls into the chick lit category and then falls even further into the chick lit lite category. Fans of Alexandra Potter will probably recognise the formula and they might even enjoy it. I think Alexandra Potter is better though.
There are moments in the book when you will agree that all men are bastards such as when Courtney sends her submission to the website about being gang-raped by three men, one of whom was her uncle, or when Gemma is reading an article about an Italian judge ruling that a woman wearing jeans can’t be raped because she’d have to have helped to remove the tight denim pants. It almost feels like Allison Rushby collected a whole bunch of real world examples and used them to express her frustration with the way a lot of men act with this fake story. Almost as though her indignation got in the way of making it a better book.
But, women, if you’re looking for an easy read after a horrific break-up, this will go down a treat. And, men, I’d stay away entirely unless you’re masochistic. Then again, it’s a great what-not-to-do manual for dating. But it’s not going to change the world at large or the world of literature.
*First published on Goodreads 5 May 2016