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A Sweetheart Deal [Paperback]

Ben Richards
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

4 Jan 2001
Imaginative and passionate, Mel Holloway senses that there is more to life than her job, or her relationship with her ailing boyfriend, can provide. The accidental death of a man she has never met changes her life irrevocably - leading her to form a complex bond with the wife of the victim, which, for Mel at least, deepens into love. A SWEETHEART DEAL is a wholly original vision of the city, its everyday joys and terrors, and the gestures of love and commitment that illuminate it all. It is Ben Richards' most ambitious achievement to date.

Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Headline Review; New edition edition (4 Jan 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747259674
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747259671
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 12.8 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,138,434 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

Ben Richards' third novel A Sweetheart Deal is another intelligent and assured novel of life at the sharp end of contemporary London.

Mel Holloway is a committed trade union worker, asked to represent a union member who has accidentally killed a victim of a major train crash. Caught up in a political power struggle around the case, Mel is also dealing with the stress of her personal life. Her boyfriend, Patrick, is a former musician struck down by hepatitis, leaving him making forlorn cracks at Mel and the TV along with his dysfunctional alcoholic sidekick Jim. Deeply committed to Patrick, Mel also feels "a cruel tension, a bitter conflict; her unquestionable loyalty and love, her dislike of trauma and upheaval, all of this struggling with the pervasive and universal message--the secret, shameful, insistent exigencies of desire". Then Lily Forrester steps into Mel's life. The widow of the train crash victim accidentally killed by Mel's client, Lily becomes a magnet for Mel and her frustrations at work and home. As the two women are drawn closer together, a complex story of political intrigue and union betrayal plays itself out against the backdrop of an aggressive and uncompromising London.

Richards, who has already drawn favourable comparisons with Will Self and Nick Hornby for his gritty and pacy novels Don't Step on the Lines and The Silver River, has written a tough but compassionate novel, with a refreshing political conscience. --Jerry Brotton


'Richards, with three London novels behind him, writes with a political bite that newcomers to the genre lack' Guardian

'A refreshing change... A clever study of relationships and, apart from anything else, it all gets a bit sexual in the end' Later magazine

'Compassionately depicted by Richards [Mel and Lily's] developing friendship highlights the conflict and passion of human relations' Times

'Tender and compassionate... An assured and confident writer... A Sweetheart Deal is a story of loss and longing drawn against the backdrop of modern London. Unpredictable, surprising, but never merely experimental, Richards writes with rare elegance and creates characters with whom the reader has both empathy and loathing' Yorkshire Post

`[A] dramatic page-turner of a contemporary London novel... Ben Richards's dialogue is electric and the range of his characters is outstanding... a truly rich novel painted on a large canvas' Observer

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Midlife Crises 6 Sep 2002
I quite enjoyed Richards' first book, Throwing The House Out of the Window, and found Don't Step On the Lines a bit of a disappointment (haven't read his third novel, The Silver River), so I didn't know what to expect from this one. Like his other books, it features a complex and sympathetic hero(ine), and concerns itself with the messy nature of everyday relationships, love, friendships, and jobs. Mel is a trade union worker who becomes immersed in a high-profile case involving a man who died when given the wrong blood. She ends up meeting the widow and finding herself attracted to her, but unsure in what way. Meanwhile, her longtime boyfriend mopes around the house under the debilitating effects of hepatitis C treatment and their love life stagnates. As in his other books, Richards' supporting characters are all well-rendered and interesting characters, from Mel's two friends, two coworkers, a jovial journalist, Mel's boyfriend and his friend. That's good, because the background plot involving her job and the people who are trying to influence her current case tends to wear thin and bog things down. Overall, the book succeeds as the story of one woman's struggle to come to terms with what she has become over the years and where she's at. Good reading for people in their late 30s dealing with midlife crises.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sweetheart indeed 3 Jan 2001
By A Customer
Comparisons with Will Self and Nick Hornby don't do justice to Ben Richards. He's got more subtlety than Self and more heart than Hornby. A Sweetheart Deal's complex tangle of human relationships is given bite by the union subplot .. doesn't sound fascinating, but believe me, he makes it that way. Richards also once again shows he's a master of the female voice .. Mel is a flawed and likeable heroine, who doesn't always make the right choices. And as usual, London provides a beguiling and gritty background to the stories .. the city is as much a character as the human players. I really can't say enough about this book. Buy it, it's brilliant. And buy the others while you're at it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tell Your Friends 20 Jan 2002
By A Customer
I thought this book was excellent. All right, on face value, the theme of trade unionism is probably not the most glamourous backdrop for a modern 'London' novel. But it is to Ben Richards' credit that he succeeds in balancing Mel's struggle to absolve a hospital worker scapegoated for the death of a rail crash victim, with her personal relationships with her boyfriend, her friends, and the wife of the dead man. I read and enjoyed 'Throwing the House Out of the Window', and 'A Sweetheart Deal' has made me want to tell my friends to read Ben Richards.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best Ben Richards yet 4 July 2000
If you haven't tried Ben Richards yet, for God's sake buy this and read it. I cannot think of any other current writer who is so good at conveying the little details of what it's like and what it means to live in a modern, urban environment. And we're not talking Nick Hornby or Bridget Jones here. Richards is a clever, subtle, wonderful writer. The language is so simple, so clear; I still can't work out how this book is so powerful.
In the end it comes down to character. Mel Holloway is a brilliant, adorable creation. She's smart, open, warm, complex, confused, and totally lovely. She is disarmingly real.
This is a great novel. It's moving and humane, and it will make you feel glad to be alive.
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