Tuesday, October 31, 2006

26A by Diana Evans

Sad, sweet and somewhat haunting, Evans debut novel tells the story of twins, Georgia and Bessi who share a loft at 26A Waifer Avenue in a London suburb. Reminiscent of Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, Evans absolutely nails the “twinness” of the sisters, enough to make me wonder if she is actually a twin herself. It is a rather sprawling coming of age story of sisters, '80s England, mental and sexual abuse, ghosts, Nigeria, sad families and flapjacks. Evans has a rather lyrical prose style and an intriguing ability to get in the heads of her characters and that is literally how the girls end up. She has a real feel for the pop culture of the time and a great ear for dialogue. Keep an eye on what she does next.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Utterly Monkey by Nick Laird

This is definitely being marketed as lad lit but it’s a cut above most lad lit in that it’s not the usual formula—dorky but likeable guy who can’t grow up and/or commit, surrounded by lovable but eccentric pals and the wackiness that ensues until dorky but likeable guy actually does grow up and/or commits. First off, Laird has a vocabulary that had me reaching for the dictionary and it wasn’t just one of those “I’ll really impress them if I use ‘crepuscular’ here instead of ‘twilight’” moves. Second, his main characters, old friends from Belfast, Danny and Geordie, aren’t the stock lad lit characters. They’re both a bit more thoughtful and in touch with themselves. Danny is living in London as a somewhat successful lawyer but hates his job. Geordie, who stayed in Belfast and hasn’t really done much with his life, shows up on Danny’s doorstep unannounced with a sack full of stolen money that is actually supposed to fund a terrorist action by Ulster loyalists. Cue ensuing wackiness! Throw in your inter-office, inter-racial love affair, chances to do right by “the people” by thwarting big business and a rather hurried ending and you have Utterly Monkey. Despite the Belfast connection, I found this reminiscent of Robert McLiam Wilson’s delightful Eureka Street (anyone have any idea what happened to Robert McLiam Wilson?) though not as clever or as laugh-out-loud funny. Still, Laird’s writing is strong and amusing and he tells a pretty engrossing tale.