Warrington tells the story of a memorably mismatched couple in her debut novel.
Clifford is 54, newly divorced and stretched beyond his financial means. He has a body that’s failing him and an elderly mother who insists that he murdered his infant brother more than 40 years ago. Meanwhile, Gina has two children from her abusive first marriage and a third from an affair, as well as plenty of regrets, a dearth of confidence, and a desire to find love again. When the two meet online, they find an immediate affinity—although perhaps it’s a warning sign that Gina is attracted to Clifford’s frank negativity. At first, it seems as if the two may form a perfect partnership, as they commiserate over how life seems to delight in tormenting people. But when the chaos of their respective lives begins to butt in, their personal flaws make for a difficult love affair. They must decide whether a relationship is actually possible and, if so, if it’s really worth the effort. Clifford is delightfully repugnant: selfish, reactionary, angry, and self-pitying. He’s an addition to the pantheon of somehow-lovable, angry, middle-aged British men in literature. Gina is more sympathetic, yet she possesses her own rich collection of shortcomings that make her a vigorous character. The couple’s vitality gives the novel a human center, which makes the plot feel effortless and organic. Warrington’s prose is as sharp and unadorned as her characters, and it’s laden with the wry cynicism of someone who isn’t interested in peddling romantic fantasies. Much of the book’s humor comes from the delight it takes in humbling its characters (“His body was a bendy metal coathanger performing a very poor job of supporting his weighty clothing”). Although the ending isn’t a complete surprise, there’s still something quite satisfying in it. Overall, this is the story of a modern, dysfunctional, second-chance sort of love—the kind that people don’t necessarily expect or desire. It may, however, be just the sort of love that has the most to teach people about dignity, charity, compassion, and trust.
An offbeat, honest take on romance that offers cringes and laughs in equal supply.