Lightweight but touching modern relationship story, this time from a male point of view.
To get the obvious comparisons out of the way, British author Gayle’s first US publication (after a previous success, My Legendary Girlfriend, in the UK) isn’t as giddily amusing as Bridget Jones, nor as thoughtfully affecting as Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, and it isn’t as quirkily original as either one, but it has its own distinct hangdog charm. Here, Benjamin Duffy, almost 30, is an aspiring stand-up comic in London whose pleasantly low-key life is shaken up when Mel, his girlfriend of four years, proposes. Though he loves her, and doesn't want to contemplate life without her, Duffy panics at the prospect of marriage. Retreating to his sty of an apartment, shared with best mate and fellow aspiring comic Dan (having lost the woman he loved, Dan has adopted an I-am-a-beer-swilling-unlaundered-island posture), Duffy decides not to make Dan’s mistake—and so says yes. Mel soon detects he doesn’t really mean it, though, and, heartbroken, calls the whole thing off. With the counsel of his brother-in-law Charlie, Dan, along with a great many pints of beer, Duffy attempts to accept the situation, and begins seeing Alexa, “TV’s Hottest Totty,” while Mel starts to spend time with an old boyfriend. Thanks, however, to the hectoring of his sister, and the intervention of his mother, who arranges for her son to meet the father who abandoned them many years before, Duffy realizes that he is not his father—and no longer need fear failing Mel.
Despite Gayle’s stereotypical characterization of men as bumbling and clueless boys, Duffy’s well-enough drawn to be a winning Everyman, and readers will be cheering him on as he heads for his emotional growth spurt.