Families can be complicated, and the family which is central to this book is very complicated. Not only that, in addition there is an unhappy teenager, a late lamented dog, and some genuine teenage angst in this book of contemporary life. The language is frank, the story is funny, no holds are barred in this honest account of life, love and boring jobs. This is a jolly book, full of incidental and open humour based on the sort of relationships which do not fit into easy categories. Sometimes shocking, always realistic, I was grateful to have the opportunity of reading a copy of this book as part of a blog tour.
The book opens with a dramatic scene of an accident which affects two of the characters, and the reader quickly discovers much about the characters; especially Sean, a nineteen year old who has recently returned to his father’s home after spending several years with his mother and her extravagant life style. He finds it a huge adjustment as he has lived a lonely life without friends and certainly no relationships, a situation that one of his new friends is determined to change. He has refused to go to University despite his abilities, and even his cycling ambitions have got to be put on hold. His father, Martin, has also got to adjust to a son who he has little in common with, a dead end job, and most significantly, Rhiannon who seems to be taking an unhealthy interest in him. Rhiannon is also the subject of Sean’s ambitions, as she puts on a brave face and seeks to give the impression that she is coping. Alison, Martin’s wife and therefore Sean’s stepmother, is a shadowy figure for most of the novel, yet is the subject of much of Martin’s reflection. As Martin and Sean alternate the narration as they give their own versions of life in the chaotic house, this is a cleverly constructed novel which keeps moving and entertaining with the sometimes fulsome details of relationships in the present, and in Martin’s case, in the past. Whatever happens there is humour and affection, even love as Sean’s ambitions always start small and rapidly increase.
I enjoyed this largely feel good book, with characters who get themselves into some extraordinary situations, groups, cafes, and friendship groups. While there are some painful and difficult elements discussed, this is basically a book of real life, where nothing is as it seems, there are petty frustrations and realistic disappointments; but there is still the optimism of everyday relationships. This is a book where the younger characters have much to experience and learn whatever they may believe, but also that older people have to adjust and change to fit changing times, as they realise that life will keep moving with or without them. This is a quirky view of life, written with a keen eye for the small things of everyday life as some of the characters have to readjust to their lives. Not for the easily shocked, I found it painfully true to contemporary life, and overall very entertaining.
Last night we went to the cinema, again, to see the National Theatre’s production of Richard II. It was a very different version. They called it “pared down”, but it was actually incredibly minimalist. Certainly not for those who enjoy costumes, settings and realism! The live feed films certainly give the opportunity to see productions that we would otherwise miss, and we get a wide variety of plays. Something to look out for in many parts of Britain!