NEW CARDIFF by Charles Webb


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The author of The Graduate (1963) returns with his first novel in 25 years, a laugh-out-loud love story about a whining Brit who comes to America to mend his broken heart.

Colin Ware received a wedding invitation from the woman he had been effectively engaged to—and he was not the groom-to-be. Assuming this was the only way Vera could tell him she was leaving, he immediately embarks for the New World to rid himself of his old life. “I don’t know if you’re familiar with the tradition in 19th-century American fiction,” he tells the proprietors of an art-supply store in New Cardiff, Vermont. “You have love gone wrong, then off the person gets packed to Europe . . . I thought I might try it in reverse.” At the New Cardiff motel where he’s bunked down, owners Fisher and Joanie are beguiled by his story of betrayal and match him with nursing-home attendant Mandy, a local goofball who moves in with Colin in a matter of hours. Then Vera arrives with the news that it was all an awful joke and now it’s time to go home. But Colin’s not so sure: Mandy is peachy, and these crazy Americans, whose portraits Colin has been periodically drawing, are just so inspiring. Meanwhile, Webb’s play with language is subtly incisive. Consisting almost entirely of slippery-as-an-eel dialogue, his text is spare—you can easily imagine it onstage—but not without depth. The author’s wife supplied the pencil portraits Colin is supposed to have drawn, but they merely supplement the word portraits that emerge during the conversations chronicling Colin’s adventures. Paranoid, substance-dependent, and given to blurting whatever cliché comes to mind rather than anything appropriate, the Americans are either unfavorably juxtaposed with their English counterparts or simply allowed to flounder on their own. The exchanges are often hilarious, and between chuckles we hope that Colin will succeed in finding a happy end for everyone involved.

Funny and smart. It seems the post-graduate doldrums are over.

Pub Date: Jan. 2nd, 2002
ISBN: 0-7434-4416-7
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Washington Square/Pocket
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2001