The denizens of this none too mean street include Roger Yount, a nice-but-dim investment banker (in truth, neither especially dim nor especially nice) and his ghastly wife, Arabella; a newsagent, Ahmed Kamal, and Rohinka, his delicious one; a Senegalese footballing prodigy; and the octogenarian Petunia Howe, the only aboriginal resident, contemplating death in the house where she was born.
Gently and slowly, Lanchester tightens the screws, alternating hope and despair, flitting between protagonists neatly and dexterously.
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A more credible parallel is with Honoré de Balzac: like Balzac, Lanchester has the brains to relate the particular to the general; the ruthlessness to make bad things happen to good people (though good people are in short supply in Capital); the steadiness of hand to draw unpalatable conclusions (poor immigrants really do despise affluent white Londoners; some of our neighbours really do want to blow us up; we fall in love with our nannies not because they are younger and prettier than our wives but because they’re kinder-hearted and more companionable); and, crucially, the courage to bore his readers a little, at times, rather than leave them underinformed.
) There is a reticence, an austerity – to use a modish term – about the book that I very much liked.
In 2015, it will be 10 years since I met my soul mate, my best friend, my life, and the man I proudly call my husband.
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