THE ADULTERANTS by Joe Dunthorne


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Dunthorne (Wild Abandon, 2012, etc.) forsakes his erstwhile examinations of the adolescent mind to tackle one man’s full-on fear of adulthood.

It all starts at a party, as tales of a common lad’s downfall so often do. Our narrator for this story of rapid decline is Ray Morris, a London man who is 33 years old and married to a very pregnant wife, Garthene, a dedicated but tired hospital nurse. There is a flirtation at this party between Ray and his mate Lee’s wife, Marie, and a retaliatory punch that sends Ray reeling into a crisis of faith. “No surprise that those few seconds between the first punch and the second have come to stand in for probably three months of my thirties,” Ray tells us. “That I had never been punched in the face before seemed faintly ridiculous. How could I claim full maturity without ever having jumped through that life hoop?” What follows is a broadly sketched comedy of errors, all leading to a pitiful but all-too-common resolution for Ray, largely based on his answer to Garthene’s question, when, after the party, he shows up at the hospital where she's on duty, as to how drunk he is: “Very,” he confesses. “And making terrible decisions.” There's a frantic desperation to Ray's everyday life, even aside from his present troubles—he's a man who, while he will soon be a father, struggles to piece together a living as a tech journalist and fumes at the cash buyers who keep undercutting his desire to purchase an apartment. But Dunthorne also masterfully ratchets up Ray’s escalating troubles, culminating with an arrest (following a riot) for aggravated trespass (breaking into a landlord’s office) and receiving stolen goods (taking the proffered beer from a cheerful looter). Plus, Ray’s smiling appearance on a CCTV camera (“Happy Tragedy Man” reads the headline) earns him a firing and ruthless trolling by the public. Will things turn out fine for our hero? Probably not, as happens so often.

A domestic comedy that explodes the myths of manhood with joyful pandemonium.

Pub Date: March 6th, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-941040-87-4
Page count: 248pp
Publisher: Tin House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2018


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