In the early '70s a glamorous couple known as Evie/Stevie appear out of nowhere on the isolated concrete campus of a new university. To a group of teenagers experimenting with radical ideas they seem blown back from the future, unsettling everything and uncovering covert desires. But the flamboyant self-expression hides deep anxieties. For Adele, with the most to conceal, Evie/Stevie become a lifelong obsession.
©2014 Linda Grant (P)2014 W F Howes Ltd
"'My only complaint? I fear I may not read a better book all year" (Evening Standard )
"Ambitious . . . Like the best novels, it makes you examine your own moral compass alongside that of its characters" (Observer)
This is a novel about university life in the 1970s, seen from the perspective of today. For one of that era ( I went to a new university at the same time) it is richly evocative, capturing both time and place, but more importantly how the world appeared to us then. This makes the first third utterly brilliant. Adele, a tough Liverpudlian, who is caught up in the world without ever internalising its assumptions, makes a great narrator, particularly when she is describing the seventies as if she were in them. When she and the story graduates, it is never quite the same. That is the author's intention - both because something dramatic happened there ( as prefigured in the title) which changes the lives of Adele and her small circle, but also because, with the possible exception of Rose, life somehow could never live up the promise of world-changing freedom that the new universities held out. Both may be true, but after they leave the narrative flounders and the reflections from the present day become somewhat sour and occasionally cliched. She allows her characters to age more quickly, certainly than my contemporaries have. Her description of their return to the University in their late fifties, makes them all sound old and more than a little decrepit, and her view of the period is relentlessly bleak. I know it's a novel, and each of the characters is a singular individual, but the author is very clearly making a statement about an era. Her earlier novel, 'We had it so good', which starts earlier and maintains its narrative drive over several decades, is a more balanced and nuanced portrayal of both the joys and the follies of our baby-boomer generation. It certainly struck more of chord with me. Read them both and make up your own mind.
book review watcher
Adele spent her university years watching and learning, reading and discussing, partying and experimenting, discovering herself, attempting to escape the traumatic experiences of her teens, wanting to change the world and having plenty of fun doing it. She's liberated, strong-minded and part of a new social order, brimming with confidence and verve. But she becomes haunted by an event that took place upstairs at a party, and the jarring shock of that night never quite leaves her as she moves through the decades of career, motherhood and on into late middle age. Her reflections are as compelling as the account of her student days. Great story, with a wistfulness that avoids becoming maudlin, and well narrated.
No on both counts.
I was looking forward to an enjoyable trip down memory lane (I too was at Uni in the 70s); some nostalgia peppered with "Black Comedy". The only smile I raised was at the mention of a punk band "The Cunning Stunts" and then I was cross with myself for being so puerile, but honestly, after hours and hours spent with dull, self obsessed, pretentious, students and disillusioned adults, it was a bit of light relief for three seconds.
I accept that all students and most young people are self obsessed and idealistic, but most of us grow out of it and can laugh at our foolish younger selves. I seem to remember that being at Uni was a bit of a hoot too at times, so I'm sad for these humourless dullards for whom everything is too much effort. The few characters who are not connected with the University are also thoroughly unpleasant. I really could not have cared less what happened to any of them.
As for the narration - the tone is so languid and slow that I had to check my i-pod on several occasions to make sure it wasn't set at half speed. I have huge admiration for the reviewer who gave up after ten minutes. I have a very misplaced sense that having bought a book, I should get my money's worth and finish it. I urge you not to make the same mistake.
Made it 238 pages shorter.
No one could make this material sound good. I can only assume that Tricia Kelly was getting paid by the hour, as most narrators would surely have hurried it up to get it over with.
All of them.
Spend your valuable credits on something else.
The narrator seems to believe she is acting in a melodrama rather than reading a book. I had to stop listening after 10 minutes because the narrator was so irritating.
This is a great book, especially for us baby boomers who can relate to the story's protagonists. Yet it was ruined by the narration which was so utterly wrong. It wasn't the reader's voice per se; even if you hear a sample you won't get how irritating her voice is as it's mainly narration. When she voices dialogue, she manages to make all the characters sound like lumpen, dreary depressives. It's supposed to trace the fortunes of a group of bright albeit troubled students.
The story is well-written and evokes many memories of how things were in the Sixties. It's poignant and affecting. I just wish I'd read the book rather than listened to it.
The characterisation was totally distorted. Yes, I do remember some students affecting a slow, rather world-weary drawl when they spoke, as if they were permanently stoned which, in some cases they were. I never met anyone who sounded anything like this narrator's characters.
I could easily see this book turned into a TV series.
I really wonder who chooses the narrator. I can't believe that the author herself would have sanctioned this rendition of her book. Yet towards the end, the audio company boasts of producing stories read how the writers would have intended (or words to that effect). So I'm baffled. I've just read Linda Grant's earlier book, We Had It So Good, read by someone else. A completely different (superior) experience.
Right. If you're a certain age then the first third of the book with its evocation of a 1973-5 modern University, York if we understand correctly, will resonate strongly, the lifestyle and traits of the times being accurately covered. But the key characters are, in the main, unlovely, self-obsessed, unempathic characters with a high self belief and lofty disdain for other, more grounded contemporaries. It's difficult to find any empathy with them for that reason, and the trivia that the novel focuses on is exactly that, over-obsessed trivia. The narrators voice was very 'actorrrrly' with a wrong emphasis and characterisation for me. I felt like slitting my wrists at times, the whole thing was so depressing. Despite that I made it to the end, but it felt like it mattered more to the author than to an audience
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