Guy by Jowita Bydlowska

29599074About Guy:

  1. Easy on the eyes..
  2. And knows it.
  3. Eats well.
  4. Works out every morning.
  5. Rich and successful. Owns a house on the beach.
  6. The beach that he likes to walk his dog on, and watch women look at him.
  7. He rates these women on a scale of 1 to 10.
  8. His prefers 3s, 4s and 5s. Plain women who can be made to feel more beautiful than he believes they really are.
  9. He likes a challenge, enjoys the game.
  10. He’s good at hiding his real thoughts.
  11. He’s good at telling women what they want to hear.
  12. He’s good at making women feel good.
  13. Until he leaves them and moves on to the next one.
  14. However, he ultimately believes he’s doing these women a favour. He believes that, after he leaves them, they will continue to feel better about themselves than they did before because they were once with him – a perfect male specimen.
  15. One day, though, he will meet his match.

I went into this book ready (and looking forward to) despising this character. And at times I did despise him, absolutely. But by the time I got to the end, I no longer knew what to think. It’s hard to completely despise someone who genuinely seems to believe he’s helping people out; making them happier, even if only temporarily (and even if it’s a big fat lie).

The other thing that occurs to me is that we are inside this guy’s head and know all his thoughts. Is it fair to judge people whose every thought we have access to? Maybe we would detest just about everyone if we had access to all their private thoughts; every man who looks at a women and sizes her up, every woman who silently criticizes another woman for being too thin/too fat/too smart/too dumb. It really makes me think more about the private thoughts I’m having – are they worthy of everyone’s scrutiny?

In Shelagh Roger’s interview with Jowita Bydlowska on The Next Chapter, Bydlowska talks about the reason she started writing about a man like Guy in the first place. They talk about the questions the book raises about the culture of misogyny, as well as what it is that makes women susceptible to men like him. I was also happy to hear, because I was feeling confused about the way I was feeling about a character who I knew was clearly despicable, that Bydlowska wanted to write about Guy in a way that would confuse readers. She gives us reason to question our hate, and opportunities to feel pity and even sympathy for him.

This book was entertaining and provocative. If you are averse, however, to a lot of sex and profanity in your reading, you might want to think twice about reading it. There is a lot of sex in this book, but most of it is described the way he might describe anything else in his life – his workouts, his meal plans (the guy can cook!). In fact, much about the way he thinks and describes things sounds almost robotic – controlled and calculating, without a lot of feeling.

The biggest problem I, or someone else, might have with this book is what happens at the end. I’m still not sure how I feel about the ending… especially now, in light of many recent events. Yes, the guy is a narcissistic jerk, but does he deserve what happens? He doesn’t seem as angry as he should be, but what does that mean? What is the author trying to say with this ending? It seems kind of wacko to me. If you decide to read this book, please come back and enlighten me.

In the Globe & Mail, Stacey May Fowles uses words like “morbidly fascinating”, “disturbing”, “unsettling”, and even “pity” to describe Guy (both the book and the character). Because, yes, I do feel pity for someone who goes through life without being able to genuinely connect with other people. And she describes the retribution at the end as “more disturbing than rewarding”, for which I completely agree.

I think that I’ll be passing this book on to the members of my book club. I’m looking forward to a discussion about the intentions of men, the vengeance of women, and the reasonable limits of both.

Some passages from the uncorrected proof

Guy on women and beauty and being awesome:

My life opened to grateful girls. Girls with weight problems and with bad skin. Girls who had dreams, but who could forsake those dreams because they understood from the time they were born that the world would not give into their demands. The world was unapologetic about loving beauty, and it ignored the plain girls, if not downright rebuked them.     I had the power to be the world to them.

No one would hold me accountable for not sticking around. The plain girls simply didn’t expect it. I pleased them. The end.

If it wasn’t for men like me, many of those women would never know they’re worth more than they think they are.

… a girl who knows her value, who understands her power, is a hundred times more powerful than I could ever be.

Why do people always shit on those who admit to being awesome? I’m awesome and I won’t let people shit on me – what’s wrong with that? And I believe that I was put on this earth to bring a few girls some great memories, some happiness even – what’s wrong with that?

Guy on marriage:

And is modern marriage about love? The love evolving, maturing like some kind of alcohol as it sits in the barrel of disillusionment and misfortune, disease and ephemeral joy? The love maturing so much that it is prone to forgetting that it originated in desire, demanding the same desire to succumb to exclusivity, monogamy? And desire, this chronic viral condition, torturing monogamy with its lips and hips, its swagger and smell, its eye contact, its hands everywhere? ….Then, at home, the desire resting next to the wife’s sleeping cheek as the husband masturbates in the darkness, quietly, hideously. He is an evolved man, a man who evolved so much that he married, respected and observed the rules of modern society. And later on, his wife locks herself in the bathroom with her secret stash of Fifty Shades of Grey or some other romance fable and fantasizes about being mounted by someone else, the neighbour. Anyone but her husband, whom she finds repulsive now, after years of marriage.

Thank you to Wolsak & Wynn for providing me with a copy of this book for review!

Jowita Bydlowska is also the author of Drunk Mom, a memoir about her struggle with alcohol the year after her child was born. (my review)

A book that would go well with this one, in terms of topic and discussion value, is The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall.

36 thoughts on “Guy by Jowita Bydlowska

  1. kimbofo says:

    Oh, this sound deliciously provocative, Naomi. What a creep Guy sounds, too, but I suspect there’s a lot of these sort of people around. I’ve added this one to my wishlist. It looks like I can get a copy from
    The Book Depository.

    • Naomi says:

      For a while after I read it, I kept wondering what was going through the minds of some of the men I saw around (the men I don’t know – I don’t think I know many guys like Guy – although bits and pieces of him seemed familiar).
      I’m glad you can get a hold of a copy!

  2. Debbie Rodgers @Exurbanis says:

    I probably won’t read this (more because of the profanity than the sex) (and thank you for the warning) but I would like to have seen how the author was able to create confusion in the reader’s feelings when the subject seems so straight-forward despibable. I will read The Best Kind of People though.

    • Naomi says:

      I love an unlikeable character, especially when I’m in the mood for one. When I heard about Guy, I knew I wanted to read about him! I have to admit, it was more graphic than I thought it would be, but those are the parts easily forgotten while the crux of the story stays with you.

  3. Rebecca Foster says:

    I really admire an author who is able to convincingly write from the perspective of the opposite gender. I think I’d enjoy reading about this slimeball and finding out about the ending.

    • Naomi says:

      Jowita Bydlowska is great. When I saw she had a new book out I didn’t really care what it was about – I just wanted to read it after having read her memoir.
      Slimeballs are fascinating, aren’t they?
      I hope you do read it, so I can get another opinion on the ending!

  4. Don Royster says:

    A really good review. After reading it, there are some thoughts that come to mind. Are there women who are female versions of Guy? I think there are. In the 15 things, change the he to a she and the women to men. It’s kind of sad that there are such shallow, narcissistic people like this. And I mean sad for them. They are missing so much in life.

    The second thought is how much is the culture we live in to blame. A culture that applauds materialism and the pursuit of conquest. I think our culture has a lot to blame for it. I used to think we were better than this. But I am not so sure after 2016.

    It sounds like the author has given all of us some food for thought. And who knows? Maybe she has written a satire.

    • Naomi says:

      I believe the novel is meant to be a satire – sorry, I think I forgot to mention that! And, yes, I’m sure there are also female versions of Guy. But call me crazy (or call me a woman), but I’m going to guess that more are male. 🙂

      Our culture seems to play a big part in the way Guy thinks. Several times he mentions society’s emphasis on beauty, and the effect that has on women. He’s just taking advantage of what society has already created.

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Don!

  5. roughghosts says:

    I enjoyed her interview with Shelagh Rogers, but, having met this author and then seeing her take part in an event at our word festival, I have serious reservations about this book. And your review confirms my concerns in a way. As someone who has lived on both sides of the gender line, I am, perhaps, a little too critical. 🙂

    • Naomi says:

      Oh, now you have piqued my interest. Does it have anything to do with the way she ended the book, or is it something else entirely? I can see that this book, and its subject, would not be for everyone – it’s one of the reasons I am aching to discuss it. Was she brave to write this book? Or is it just destructive?

  6. The Cue Card says:

    I think this one sounds like a tough read to me, primarily because of the main character and likely the ending too. It was highlighted at the book festival in Oct. but I thought maybe I’d rather read her book Drunk Mom instead. Though that one will likely be tough too. Maybe she only writes harsh books?

    • Naomi says:

      ‘Controversial’ might be a good word for both of her books. I can see people on both sides of the things she writes about.
      If I had to recommend one book over the other, it would be Drunk Mom. Parts of it are definitely tough to read, but she does a good job of lightening it up at the same time.

  7. Read Diverse Books says:

    That list about guy was tantalizingly good, Naomi! I was scoffing and annoyed by him the further I read along. haha

    But you make such an insightful point about how easily we’d judge someone if we knew what was on their minds at all times. That’s precisely why I’d never want to be a mind reader. I can’t imagine ever being happy if I could read minds.
    You’ve made me really curious about that ending…

    • Naomi says:

      I think the ending would make you mad. But that’s not always a bad thing… 🙂

      Good point about being a mind-reader. I always thought it would be cool, but really I might end up not liking anyone anymore. Which would be very uncool!

    • Naomi says:

      There was a lot about this book I ‘enjoyed’, but ‘enjoy’ wouldn’t be the right word for other parts of it. It’s the kind of book you have to prepare for going in.

  8. lauratfrey says:

    I’ve been too scared to read her memoir- just feel like I’ll get too emotional. I think i could read this, though. Not sure if i *will* but if i do give her a try I’ll start here.

    • Naomi says:

      I bravely suggested it to mine about a week ago. They are now passing it around, taking turns, but I haven’t heard yet how it’s going. I told them that if we can all get through this one, then we’ll be able to get through just about anything else. 🙂

  9. buriedinprint says:

    In the right mood, I think this could be a fascinating read. (Of course what you’ve said about the ending intrigues me endlessly; that alone might find me plucking a copy off the “new books” shelf at some point.) Characters who exist in the grey are most interesting to me.

  10. buriedinprint says:

    The library list has more than 100 people waiting! Which is great for the author of course. Let me see what other kind of plan I can come up with. 🙂

    • Naomi says:

      100 people!! A long list in my town is 5 or 6. 🙂
      I would send you my copy, but my book club members are all passing it around right now! (I wonder how they’re doing…)

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