Catching the Sun by Tony Parsons

I’m a huge fan of Tony Parsons however I wasn’t a huge fan of Tony-Parsons-goes-tropical in his ninth novel, Catching the Sun.

After a string of events in Britain, taxi driver Tom Finn takes his wife and children to live on the tropical island of Phuket, Thailand. Initially, it’s all the family dreamed of – a tropical paradise where they live simply, with the beach at their doorstep. But both man-made and natural disasters shatter their tropical idyll and the family are forced to reconsider their definition of ‘paradise’.

When I think about Parsons, I think London streets, complex relationships, men trying to do the right thing. To a certain extent, these themes are picked up in Catching the Sun however without the dirty concrete, rain and lagers, the story never quite convinced me. Continue reading

We’re All Damaged by Matthew Norman

Matthew Norman’s gone the full Tropper* in his second novel, We’re All Damaged. It’s lad-lit (so expect laughs) but it also has plenty of feels.

The story focuses on Andy Carter, who we first meet as he’s being stood-up on a blind date –

“…she arrived, took one look at me sitting here, and bolted. I can talk to this guy for the next few hours, she could very well have thought. Or I can go home and put on some Crest Whitestrips and watch The Bachelorette.”

Andy’s life has changed from contended Midwesterner with a solid job in insurance and the love-of-his-life wife, to single-guy living in New York, bar-tending to make ends meet. Turns out the love-of-his-life preferred the handsome paramedic down the street. Continue reading

Flatscreen by Adam Wilson

I started a new book last week – a much-lauded piece of Australian contemporary literature. Just one chapter in, I had to stop reading. Because clearly it was going to be good and I didn’t (still don’t) have the brain space to focus on the words. All my energy is being directed toward population genetics. Which involves lots of maths and traditionally maths and I aren’t great friends. My lecturer said (in a not the least bit reassuring voice) “This course only requires maths to Year 10 level…” Yeah, well good. Firstly, Year 10 was a shitfull year for me. Secondly, Year 10 maths was a much more recent experience for 99.9% of my fellow students. Anyway, I digress. I needed a book that was fluff. Flatscreen by Adam Wilson fitted the bill.

In short, it’s the story of Eli Schwartz – a twenty-year-old slacker who lives at home with his mother, partakes in recreational drugs, wishes he had a girlfriend, wishes he had his own cooking show, wishes his brother wasn’t so successful and wishes his father would give him more money (to support the aforementioned drug habit). Enter Seymour Kahn, former star of the small screen and current paraplegic sex addict. An unlikely friendship begins that leads to some particularly untidy scenes and a viral YouTube clip. Of course, there’s a moral to the story. Continue reading

The Two of Us by Andy Jones

The blurb for Andy Jones’s just-in-time-for-Valentine’s-Day-novel, The Two of Us, is perfectly pitched for a February release – “Falling in love is the easy part. What matters most is what happens next…

It’s the story of Fisher and Ivy. They’ve known each other for 19 days but both are sure it’s love.

“…anyway, how we met is academic – you don’t ask how the rain began, you simply appreciate the rainbow.” Continue reading

Useful by Debra Oswald

Here’s the thing with chick-lit and lad-lit: it’s not about the ending, it’s about how the author gets you there. Because really, you pretty much know what’s going to happen within the first few chapters (there are rare exceptions to this rule – David Nicholl’s One Day comes to mind). What you want from your story is humour and an emotional conundrum or two.

Debra Oswald (of Offspring-screenwriting fame) takes you on particularly interesting journey involving organ donation, suicide attempts, a one-eyed dog, pub bands and asbestos removal in her novel, Useful.

Specifically, it tells the story of Sullivan Moss who is in equal parts a charming underachiever, unreliable, thoughtless and a spectacularly crap friend. He decides to do one ‘useful’ thing – donate a kidney to a stranger – and in the process gets a job, sobers up and makes new friends, including radio producer Natalie and her son Louis. I don’t need to tell you much more about the plot short of saying that Oswald adds a few lively twists and turns that ensures the focus is not entirely on Sullivan. Continue reading

My Biggest Lie by Luke Brown

The title of this book  – My Biggest Lie by Luke Brown – made me think about the biggest lie I’ve ever told. Although I can’t think of a truly dishonest whopper, I did tell a lie once that had far-reaching consequences (it involved a boy, let’s call him Boy A; a party; meeting of another boy (Boy B); realisation that I didn’t like Boy A much anymore; a break-up with Boy A (insert lie for reason); some months thinking about Boy B before seeing him again; marrying Boy B).

Lies tend to either hang around or have a snowball effect. That’s why it’s best not to tell them. Liam Wilson, the main character of the story, discovers this as his life moves from glamorous-London-publisher-with-girlfriend to single-unemployed-guy-living-in-Buenos-Aires. A whole bunch of lies facilitate the process. Liam wants his London life back but does he have to lie to get it?

“There was a time not long ago when I thought that lying was the most natural thing in the world. I was young and I had a good haircut and a girlfriend I loved…. I wore suits I couldn’t afford in the hope that this was the way that one day I would be able to afford them…. I never spoke to anyone about Sarah because if I did I’d have to tell everyone how much I adored her. I didn’t want to over complicate the portrait.” Continue reading