I am still behind on my reviewing, even though I seem to have unlocked my reviewer’s block – so today, I have a trio of short reviews for you…
The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick
This is a rare case for me of having seen the film before I read the book. I loved the film and its two leads, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence – would I love the book too.? Yes!
The book follows the rehabilitation of Pat Peoples, who has just come out of a mental health unit, where he’s been for some time. Pat has been discharged into the care of his parents, his ever-loving mom and distant father. He spends his days getting fit, obsessively running or working out in his basement gym. He is convinced that if he tries to be nice and see the silver lining that the “apart time” between him and his estranged wife Nikki will be over. But he hadn’t bargained on meeting Tiffany, the quirky and damaged sister of his best friend’s wife…
The whole story is narrated by Pat, a history teacher, who at first believes he’s been away for only a few months – only to discover it’s been much longer. In the book, I particularly liked the character of Dr Patel, Pat’s therapist who is able to get through to Pat via their shared love of football and the (Philadelphia) Eagles and more is made of their footballing friendship than in the film. The plot of the book and film also diverge in some major ways during the second half to allow the film to achieve the necessary climax and feelgood ending. That’s not to say that the book doesn’t also end on a hopeful note, but it doesn’t attempt to give full closure in the same way and I really appreciated that.
This was Quick’s debut novel, and I loved it. It marks him out as an author to watch. As to the question of film vs book – an honorable draw and don’t worry about order. With the book cover picturing Cooper and Lawrence, you’re hooked into visualising them as the leads anyway. (10/10)
Source: Own copy. Picador 2008. Paperback, 288 pages.
That Close by Suggs
I do enjoy a good memoir or biography, particularly if they’re full of rock’n’roll! Madness are one of the ultimate goodtime bands, who, since they reformed after an eight year break in 1992, continue to delight on the festival circuit. Their charismatic front man Suggs tells his story – “of how Graham McPherson became Suggs,” in this cheeky memoir. In the intro, he tells us about having been approached by a ghost-writer and turning them down to eventually do it himself, having always enjoyed writing, including songs…
Writing a good song isn’t easy, by any means, but the discipline is completely different. You’re more often than not collaborating with other people, and to be perfectly frank if you get a couple of good lines for a song, real good ones, it’s a productive day.
Suggs is an irreverent host, always cheeky, joking, optimistic, rarely maudlin. You can’t help but smile as you read about his youth, growing up in North London (with a stint in Wales with his aunt). He certainly was a naughty schoolboy with the attention span of a gnat, unless you’re talking football (he’s a Chelsea supporter). He conveys the soccer tribalism that abounded (abounds?) in the 1970s and the constant scuffles between rival clubs’ fans.
We find out how he got his nickname early on – he was trying to think of a graffiti tag and stuck a pin into a dictionary of jazz musicians. It landed on a name – Peter.
Bollocks. So much for my deal with fate. I was just about to close the book and start all over, when I noticed his second name… Suggs. Peter Suggs, a jazz drummer from Kentucky.
Suggs?!! Hang on, Suggs. It was weird, and not really the kind of New York street thing I’d imagined. But Suggs, yeah, well, that was the deal. It was certainly different, I was keen to try it out straight away.
Later, we’ll discover how Madness chose their name too. Life with Madness sounds like it was/is an absolute hoot – seven blokes who resolutely plough their own musical furrow. Suggs tells us about the early days gigging in their van – it’s classic stuff, but more fun than you’ll read about in most musician’s memoirs. He takes us up to Madness’ crowning glories – playing at the closing of the 2012 Olympics, and later on the roof of Buckingham Palace for the Queen’s diamond jubilee.
There are some great photos, and plenty of lyrics dotted throughout, along with Suggs’ style of speaking which comes over loud and clear. He’s an engaging writer, but he can be sentimental, particularly about his daughters, and can also take a serious turn such as when he describes his heroes:
For singing and indeed songwriting, my two biggest influences were Ray Davies and Ian Dury. Both of them wrote songs about ordinary working life, made everyday life situations cinematic, and sang in their own vernacular.
This memoir is fun from page one. He does repeat himself slightly on occasions, but otherwise it is completely ‘nutty’. I loved it (9/10)
Source: Own copy Quercus 2013. Paperback, 352 pages. Buy from Amazon UK
You Should Have Left by Daniel Kehlmann
This is a great novella, published as a little hardback. It is the tale of a failing marriage, screenwriter’s block, the holiday retreat to a mountain chalet that could mend things but doesn’t. And then things go weirdly wrong and I won’t explain more.
Although there is nothing particularly new about the plot, this creepy story was well-crafted, the suspense builds from the start and it was the perfect length for an hour train journey, (7.5/10)
See also Susan’s fuller review here.
Source: Review copy. Riverrun Books, 2017 – hardback, 128 pages. Buy from Amazon UK