The universe is a glitterball I hold in the palm of my hand.
Once the golden boy of the English literary scene, now a clinically depressed writer of pulp crime fiction, Ash Winters has given up on love, hope, happiness, and—most of all—himself. He lives his life between the cycles of his illness, haunted by the ghosts of other people’s expectations.
Then a chance encounter at a stag party throws him into the arms of Essex boy Darian Taylor, an aspiring model who lives in a world of hair gel, fake tans, and fashion shows. By his own admission, Darian isn’t the crispest lettuce in the fridge, but he cooks a mean cottage pie and makes Ash laugh, reminding him of what it’s like to step beyond the boundaries of anxiety.
But Ash has been living in his own shadow for so long that he can’t see past the glitter to the light. Can a man who doesn’t trust himself ever trust in happiness? And how can a man who doesn’t believe in happiness ever fight for his own?
This is a book that I could appreciate, in terms of writing and construction, but I didn’t love it. For technical merit, I give it a 4.5/5; for my personal enjoyment factor, 3/5.
1. Sometimes the prose in this book is lovely and striking. (I loved the game of Nabble, and dinner being prepared, and other scenes.) While other times it edges past lovely and veers into purple.
2. I really hate when pronunciation is spelled out to match dialect/accent, and the spelling of Darian’s Essex accent was extremely distracting.
3. The narrator was a pretentious twit and not a very sympathetic character. Writer struggling with mental illness — should generate sympathy, right? But I spent most of the book wanting to smack him for being a snobbish jerk. Is it ableist to think that being ill doesn’t excuse him from common courtesy?
4. The blurb tells me that the narrator was the golden boy of the literary scene but nothing in the text showed me that. It just showed me a writer with some commercial success.
5. Another personal taste quirk: the bubble graphics used to accompany the time shift markers were twee.
6. Dear editors: the country in South America is spelled Colombia. People who come from there are Colombian. That famous Spanish-language mystical realism writer is not Columbian but Colombian. That’s not a UK vs. US spelling difference but correct usage in both BrE and AmE, and it was missed here. (And, yes, it’s another pet peeve of mine. Even though I appreciate the shout out to Gabo.)