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A coming-of-age story with a difference as newcomer Blackaby, winner of Britain's prestigious Betty Trask Prize, celebrates with gentle humor the finding of both true love and an absorbing vocation. In a series of flashbacks prompted by a real-estate flyer advertising apartments for rent, narrator Paul recalls his youthful past and the events that led to his present agreeable life. These memories, remembered with nicely calibrated self-deprecation, are interspersed with brief references to the personal landmarks that Paul passes as he walks across London to revisit the apartment he once lived in. As he detours past the Albert Memorial, a graveyard, and a favorite pub, he begins his story at the point of his 1984 pre-dawn meeting with Ann, one of roommate David's many girlfriends. An insomniac, confirmed smoker, and avid chess-player, Paul majored in mathematics at Oxford. But while he could mend cars, solve intricate equations, and challenge his college's reigning chess champion he was less successful with women. His first and only girlfriend took up with someone more assured, and he spent the rest of his time observing the easy sexual triumphs of David. After graduation, Paul moved to London, where he shared a flat with David, a man of mystery as well as a compulsive gambler, who was soon embroiled in shady financial ventures that soured. Within a few years Paul's own job with a multinational corporation became pointless and then nonexistent. Finally, a nasty bit of violence ended the pair's tenancy of the fiat, and unemployed and unattached Paul was forced to find cheaper, less elegant accommodation. Life looked grim until he serendipitously found work--and then love. Neither Lucky Jim nor Brideshead Revisited but, still, literate and amusing: a debut novel refreshingly rooted in the real world of work and ordinary pleasures.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1995
Page count: 331pp
Publisher: Victor Gollancz--dist. by Trafalgar