Disclosure: I received a review copy of The Couple from Bonnier Books UK, the publisher, in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Couple by Helly Acton • contains 400 pages • published May 27, 2021 by Bonnier Books UK, Zaffre • classified as Romance, Satire, Women's Fiction • obtained through the publisher • read as eARC • shelve on Goodreads
Millie is a perfectionist. She's happy, she's successful and, with a great support network of friends and family (and a very grumpy cat), she's never lonely. She loves working at a big tech firm and is on track be promoted to her dream role. The last thing she needs is romance messing up her perfectly organised world.
Besides, normal people just don't have romantic relationships. Everyone knows that being in a couple is a bit... well, odd. You know, like having a pet snake or referring to yourself in the third person. Why rely on another person for your own happiness? Why risk the humiliation of unrequited love or the agony of a break-up? No, Millie is more than happy with her conventional single life.
So, when Millie lands a new project at work, launching a pill that prevents you falling in love, it seems like the opportunity of a lifetime. That is, until she starts working with Ben. He's charming and funny, and Millie feels an instant connection to him.
Will Millie sacrifice everything she believes in for love?
The Couple Has a Great Premise
The moment I saw the synopsis of The Couple, I knew in my bones that Helly Acton wrote this book for me. See, I love books that turn our social norms upside down and examine how life could be instead. Also, I basically spent my twenties single, which drew a lot of pity from friends. They made unsolicited comments, “Are you sure you don’t want to get married?” or “I’m happy to introduce you to someone!”
As a result, I often wondered why dating had to be the norm. What if that was the odd choice? Well, that’s precisely the concept of The Couple.
Interesting Blend of GenresHelly leaned right into it and established a world where to be single was practically a life goal. In fact, life became more expensive as a couple because of increased taxes and rents. Overall, her satirical take worked so well that it had me in stitches right from the very start.
While The Couple entailed familiar dystopian elements of increased social isolation and the quest to eliminate love and romance, it didn’t come with state surveillance. It actually read more like a contemporary book, just in an alternate universe where the attitudes towards romantic love were different. Yet it also managed to be a lot more diverse as LGBTQ+ couples and heterosexual couples were treated as equals.
What I Enjoyed
As for the characters, Millie was quite likeable. She didn’t exactly stand out and she had no special talents, so by and large, she was ordinary. She strived for a promotion at her company, enjoyed a quiet personal life and had great friendships. That is, until a new colleague rocked her boat.
Anyway, it’s her journey and how she came to grapple with an off-kilter trajectory that made The Couple such a delightful read. Learning about the pill that her company would market to end romantic feelings set off an ethical dilemma for Millie. Her resulting search for answers sucked me even deeper into The Couple. That’s why I’m so glad I received an early copy for review, even though I didn’t manage to post my book review earlier this year.
I definitely recommend picking up this book. It richly examines relationships from the familial to the platonic, to the cordial and the romantic. Despite the morally grey themes, it also is rather hilarious. A great combination, if you ask me!