Miranda Sawyer Park And Ride (Abacus £6.99)
Middle England may be a mythical kingdom, a dystopian Narnia found at the back of New Labour's closet (just turn right at the skeletonS), but suburbia is a state of mind. The third eye and the third way. It’s no longer a middle class dream either, we all want our trips to lkea/designer bars/shopping malls and a new car to take us there. The question is: can it be good for you?
Park And Ride is inSightful, funny and scary, a Sunday afternoon jaunt that takes in boy racers, Wife-swapping, golf faSCism, the Lady Di Memorial Concert and the horror of theme parks. Whereas Nik Cohn’s recent Yes We Have No looked to the margins of sooety, Miranda Sawyer goes straight for the centre: ’I didn’t move to suburbia because, in the end, I didn’t need to. Suburbia had moved to me.’ Neither heaven nor hell, but
somewhere in between. (Rodger Evans) ' Amos Oz’s latest story details the
URBAN FICTION ' Jonathan Tulloch The Bonny Lad (Jonathan Cape £10)
The movie pitch would be Oliver Twist meets Brassed Off. Indeed, the latter’s director, Mark Herman, went on to make Pure/y Be/ter, based on Jonathan Tulloch’s debut The Season Ticket. This follow-up is also set in post-industrial Gateshead, where an elderly man — his hands and lungs ’knackt’ by 50 years down the pit — takes reluctant custody of his unruly grandson.
Abused by his junkie mother and drug-dealing stepfather, the neglect- hardened nipper behaves appallingly at first; but mutual mistrust gradually dissolves, giving way to a nurturing bond, soapy denouement and gripping climax.
Tulloch writes in a brisk, no-nonsense style, revealing his characters’ thoughts and feelings strictly through their actions and their dialogue, rendered in Geordie vernacular. He strives to resist mawkishness and socio-political preaching, though they do creep in
112 THE “ST 15 Feb—1 Mar 2001 /
here and there. But don’t be deterred
by the grim~oop-nawth opening, these are memorable characters and their story is absorbing and humane.
The Same Sea (Chatto & Windus £14.99) * t r
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minutiae of human relationships. It’s about the contact that is sometimes
there and often lost between people 5 close to each other. As the novel
Q expands, a heartwrenching whirlpool of emotions unfurls, connecting and
dividing the central characters. At times, the book is divided into
: poetry-like segments, which
i occasionally works well with succinct, meaningful paragraphs leaving a
i lasting memory. Unfortunately, the
- breaks on every page sometimes
shatter the continuity of a beautiful
‘ passage of prose.
The story of the intertwining
characters and their places within the whole picture is, however, fascinating. The emotions of each person, the son’s
trip to Tibet which becomes a voyage of discovery, and the father coping
with the grief of his wife's recent death all combine brilliantly. As each persona
evolves over time the connections are as plentiful as the hidden tales. Slowly,
these secrets are revealed to be the story’s spine. (Aly Burt)
1 Snakeskin (Doubleday £9.99) * i t
A flight, a chance meeting, a stolen
identity and the joys and dangers of
computer programming. Snakeskin’s
compelling tale depicts the adventures , of Brummie Ian Gillick, a man struggling to save his own neck while simultaneously destroying his own identity.
Returning to his homeland after three
. years on the run, Ian has to figure out ; what caused a glitch in the computer
I programming which had enabled his
i comfortable living abroad. Assuming
f the identity of dull scientist Dr Darren
‘ White, lan takes employment with the prestigious Spartech UK to sort out his
financial mess. The real Darren
however, soon follows his tracks.
Confused? Don’t be. Geneticist John
I McCabe is successful in his bid to
; Hanif Kureishi
- Gabriel’s Gift (Faber £9.99) a: t *
Following the break-up of his parents’ marriage, fifteen-year-old
Gabriel struggles to provide
emotional support for his lonely
mother and immature, ageing
hipster of a father. With little to rely
on save his talent for painting and the imagined counsel of his dead twin Archie, Gabriel attempts to rehabilitate his father’s career as a guitarist while coping with the zealous, fantastic ambition of his mother.
Gabriel’s Gift sees author Hanif Kureishi continuing to reign in the excesses of his earlier fiction. While the political vitriol and the nostalgic
i celebration of youthful hedonism
that characterised The Buddha Of Suburbia and The Black Album have been distilled, the author's keen ear
of growing old gracefully
for dialogue. his eye for the absurdly comical in everyday life and the
engaging prose remain intact.
Like his angelic namesake, Gabriel is a bright, almost too-good-to-be-true protagonist whose commitment to his hopeless father is touchineg portrayed. Yet, even Kureishi labours to empathise with the flawed, self- absorbed parents, still clinging to the memories of their glory days while pinning their hopes to some utopian future. Also, in a move that smacks of killing his own babies, Kureishi brieﬂy resurrects flamboyant peacocks Charlie Hero and Karim Amir from Buddha along with The Black Album‘s Dottie Osgood, this time exposing their rock star vanity in all its
With Gabriel’s Gift, Kureishi has produced a neat. short study on the redemptive power of the imagination that is also a sad, caustic reflection on the importance of growing old gracefully. Compared to the author’s action- packed early novels, this book feels a bit like coming down after the drug-
I fuelled party. (Allan Radcliffe)
i trivialise the concerns of a money-
grabbing capitalist society and ridicules those who embrace it. While the readers are invited to laugh at the obsessive behaviour of each character, they are also coaxed into reflecting on how real they actually are. Scary stuff. (Mike Findlay)
Perfect Tense (Jonathan Cape £10) * at *
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Welcome to office hell, please wipe your feet on the brown decor. Starting
as an amazing description of office life, this novel rapidly descends into a philosophical philippic on today's work culture. Captivating to the end, our central character’s bitterness due to his position in life is enthralling, painting an all too realistic view of how the daily grind affects you.
As the author of England Is Mine, Michael Bracewell has already shown his credentials as a countrywide social commentator. However, Perfect Tense does give a very Londoncentric view in places; discussion of daily tube exertions for one. He brings back the depression of everybody’s day brilliantly though, with the detailed graphic reality of office banality, endless nothing conversations, horrible pot plants and repetitive tasks.
Work pays the bills, your free time is your own. So use your leisure periods to read this book about employment. Just don't think about it too much. (Aly Burt)
All Bones And Lies (Bantam £15.99) *‘k‘k
If our heroes, as Martin Amis suggests in The Information, really are getting less and less heroic, then Anne Fine’s protagonist is a fitting low point in such a trend. Colin is an environmental health inspector who spends an inordinate amount of time with his bilious mother and is treated as an emotionless doormat by his sister, colleagues and the world at large.