Too lurid and too pretentiously cute!

Lurid & Cute by Adam Thirlwell

When I read Alex Preston’s review of Adam Thirlwell’s new novel in the Financial Times I instantly wanted to read and review this book for Shiny New Books. As you know I love quirky novels, and I thought this book would be fun, very contemporary and something a bit different.

I wish I’d read some more reviews for it has since become clear that Thirlwell (one of the Granta Best British novelists under 40) is a real ‘Marmite’ author – there is little middle-ground, you’ll love it or loathe it. I quickly grew to loathe this book and gave up at around page 115 during the orgy scene.

It takes place in a great unnamed metropolis, where our unnamed narrator wakes up in bed beside a woman who is not his wife, and she is in a bad state with blood and vomit around her mouth – but still alive. He delivers Romy, with whom he is having an affair to the hospital and goes home to his beloved wife Candy and the house they share with his parents. He has recently given up work, saying he is depressed and needs to find his art – she indulges him. He essentially goes on to laze around taking drugs with his best friend Hiro, bemoaning the fact that he loves Candy so much, while having fun with Romy – and then they all end up at a party that turns into an orgy, even Candy- and he can’t handle it.

He reminded me very much of a Murakami protagonist – Toru in The Wind-up Bird Chronicle who ends up sitting in a well. He was rather an empty shell and was difficult to engage with, although I quite enjoyed that novel. Thirlwell’s 30ish main character is also hollow – but is also downright indulgent and silly. I felt so sorry for his wife Candy – she must have known he was lying through his teeth to her.

Because, to put this another way, it turns out that in the perfect marriage where you are absolutely trusted there is no end to what you can do. For lying only distils its gorgeousness if you are doing it to the person who wakes up next to you every day, who believes they know your inner heart more than they know their own, that’s the perfect person to lie to because only when you lie to someone like that can you create a perfect lie, … Unfortunately, it leaks all over the picture.

Irritatingly, Thirlwell’s prose does have its moments, but I disliked the narrator so much I couldn’t continue – I gather I’ve missed a whole lot of shenagigans involving a hold-up and gunshots by giving up, but life’s too short. The title was very apt though (with an ironic emphasis on cute). DNF

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Source: Publisher – Thank you!

To explore further on Amazon UK, please click below (affiliate link – thanks):
Lurid & Cute by Adam Thirlwell. Pub Jonathan Cape, Jan 2015, Hardback, 368 pages.

18 thoughts on “Too lurid and too pretentiously cute!

  1. litlove says:

    ‘gave up at around page 115 during the orgy scene.’ – LOL! Say no more! I remember this guy’s first novel being very Marmite, and full of unnecessary sex. One I think I will happily pass by…

  2. Col says:

    To paraphrase the Trumpton Fire Brigade roll call “Phew! Phew! Barney McGrew!” You’ve done me a real favour here – I picked this up from a Guardian list of don’t miss books for 2015 and went to bookshop for it at weekend – they didn’t have it in stock and I decided not to order but look for another time! Now I won’t bother! Thanks!

  3. Alex says:

    Do you not wonder sometimes if the people who put together these lists of must reads have actually read the books they are recommending? This is definitely one for the ‘do not bother’ list.

  4. JacquiWine says:

    I haven’t read anything by Thirlwell but had heard about his Marmite style (from reports of Politics, I think). Oh, well…it sounds as though you’ve moved on to something better with the Ishiguro.

  5. David Nolan (David73277) says:

    I’ve failed to like Thirlwell’s books in the past. This clearly would not be the one to win me round.

  6. MarinaSofia says:

    Giving up during an orgy scene – it must have been dire indeed! You made me laugh. The main character does sound infuriating. Probably not the book for me.

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