A London-based millennial ponders what life is all about at pubs and parties in this debut novel.
Taverner’s book is a brisk but undeveloped portrait of a generation. The narrator, Adam Lacy, seems to be torn between how he makes his living (selling telephone accounts) and his true calling, painting—which, for want of a studio, he can’t devote himself to full time. Like Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby, he serves as the reader’s surrogate in a nocturnal world fueled by all manner of substance abuse, and he soberly (more or less) recounts where he goes and whom he meets along the way. Although there are occasional dramatic incidents, there isn’t much of an overall throughline to propel the narrative forward. In one anticlimactic episode, a colleague tries to get Lacy to take a drunken girl off his hands. “And this was where the trouble began,” Lacy says, before simply offering money to put the girl in a cab. The author is conscientious about telling readers exactly where they are (“I took the Piccadilly line, getting out at Leicester Square….Then out on Charing Cross Road I cut east along St. Martin’s Court”), and he captures the nightlife scene in its alternating tumult and numbness (“I knew the…pub would be dark and cool and quiet inside; and perhaps that’s why I went in, to take my hangover out of the daylight”). However, the novel lacks a vivid sense of place that would put the characters’ reckless behaviors and attitudes in context. One well-drawn character, Patrick Foley, Lacy’s older friend and mentor, makes an indelible impression (“Patrick Foley once told me he hired a man to kill someone”), but he disappears for long stretches. Taverner evokes the spare style of Ernest Hemingway (“Paris was Paris…and you could never know all of Paris but you could know the Paris you made for yourself”), with copious dialogue that makes the novel a quick read. As with the hard-partying revelers, however, memories of what transpired will be hazy the morning after.
A long night’s journey into day that isn’t particularly compelling or insightful.