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Eight Minutes Idle [Paperback]

Matt Thorne
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Book Description

15 April 1999

When his father gets knocked over in a car accident, Dan is forced to economise, give up the bedsit the two of them share and secretly move into the call centre where he works. He takes with him a Ginger Tom called John and the telephone numbers of seven women. Soon, the boundaries between Dan's life and work dissolve completely, and, if weren't for the secrecy, his twenty-four hour residency at the call centre would mark him out as the perfect employee.

EIGHT MINUTES IDLE focuses on the flip side of office existence, examining the strange things that can happen to the human brain after one too many hours in front of a terminal. It also explains how to turn your workplace into a dating agency, why it's a bad idea to sleep with your boss and exactly what's going on at the other end of the phone while you're left waiting on hold.

Bold, sexy and constantly inventive, EIGHT MINUTES IDLE is an addictive, urbane treat.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre (15 April 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340738820
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340738825
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 13 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,001,729 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Matt Thorne was born in Bristol in 1974. He is the author of six novels, including Eight Minutes Idle, which won an Encore Award and was recently adapted into a film starring Tom Hughes, Ophelia Lovibond and Paul Kaye and Cherry, which was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize. He is also the author of three children's books, the 39 Castles series, and co-edited the anthologies All Hail the New Puritans and Croatian Nights. His most recent book is on the pop star Prince.

Product Description


"This young writer's first novel [ TOURIST ] is a seaside snap of rootless life, his 'Bit More Than Zero': amusing, poignant, frequently sexy and remarkably sussed" THE OBSERVER

The most entertaining study in boredom and emptiness I have ever read. Thorne gives us a convincing vision.. and is perceptive observer of his characters' emotional lives (Andrew Biswell, THE DAILY TELEGRAPH on TOURIST)

"In an accomplished first novel...occupying an emotion no-man's land between RITA, SUE & BOB TOO and WISH YOU WERE HERE, Thorne describes sex, boredom and a lifetime of morning-afters in a British seaside town" THE INDEPENDENT

A memorable debut (Boyd Tonkin in THE INDEPENDENT on TOURIST)

Tells you everything you need to know about English seaside towns. Damn alien and exotic (Nicholas Blincoe in THE OBSERVER on TOURIST)

"Warped, sordid fun!" TIME OUT

"His book captures perfectly the bleak spirit of English seaside towns, and its troubled hedonistic heroine is a memorable creation"


"A tour de force of accurate and sharp writing about sex from a woman's viewpoint. Astonishing."


"An accomplished first work of fiction" TLS

"Wickedly insightful, although peculiarly insular"

"This is an exercise in true escapism."

"Treading on similar territory to his highly acclaimed debut Tourist, Thorne manages to pull together a convincing argument against spending too many hours infront of the computer screen"


"A book fo anyone whose ever worked in a call centre to exclaim: "That's me!".

"The angst and alienation of a typical tele-worker is all here"


Book Description


Inside This Book (Learn More)
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First Sentence
Some days having a job seems the most decadent pursuit imaginable. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Eight Minutes Idle plunges you into a rather comic frantic world of call centres, constantly ringing phones, clipboard carrying team leaders with targets and irrate customers on the end of phones speaking to staff who couldn't care less. The novel succeeds in entertaining you with series of funny mishaps that befall our main character. The pace of the book is uneven given that the beginning and middle are full of detail and told almost in slow motion...whereas the ending appears rushed and detail is sparse. However given the setting this structure mirrors the very topic it devotes itself too namely call centres...all calls start slow and as the chat proceeds so does the pace until before too long you are hurridly rushed off the phone....eight minutes idle is what it is and makes no apologies.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a bit douglas coupland-y only english. 11 Jun 2000
By A Customer
takes a little while getting into the mindset of the characters & even longer to care about them. Then the book is like a transatalntic flight. Before you know it your 3/4 through it. set in bristol around a call centre with it's microcosmic ego's misconceptions & petty powerplays it's so easy to read it's incredible. by the end you really care about the characters & the emotional interplay between the main charater & his colleage Tina. The book never reaches a resolution as such I this seems to be the authors depiction of such a career - or rather the culmanation of that career. no questions really get answered because management doesn't care. I heartily recommend this book to anyone who has worked in a stifling office environment in britain or elsewhere.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars just another day at the office 19 April 1999
By A Customer
Daniel works in Bristol in a telephone call centre -one of those places that takes calls for a number of different organisations, pretends to be whichever organisation you think you're calling, and often keeps you on hold for ages. He likes the office atmosphere and gets on well with his fellow team members. His life is pretty humdrum - not much money, junk food, lager, cable tv porn, a disco where he gets in free because one of the other tele-workers is the dj. Daniel's routine is slightly disturbed when his Dad, with whom he shares a bedsit, gets knocked over by a car and Daniel wonders if his estranged Mum had anything to do with it. The difficulty of the money situation while his father is in hospital obliges Daniel to accept a temporary room-mate, but this doesn't work out so he moves into the call centre, taking with him a stray cat he's grown fond of. When his team leader discovers him kipping on the office floor Daniel improvises brilliantly and is able to kill two birds with one stone by first immediately having sex with her and then moving in with her and her mother. Meanwhile, he has discovered that his Dad has been acting as the chairperson of a women's empowerment group; he reads the minutes of their very frank and confessional meetings and meets them all. Then he goes back to the bedsit to recover his Dad's computer stuff and makes a rather unpleasant discovery. On top of all this, by sleeping with the team leader Daniel of course upsets the delicate balance of the office and things get a bit uncomfortable; the others stop talking to him and they won't help him out with difficult callers and so on. Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Existential crisis? 7 April 1999
By A Customer
When his father is involved in a car accident, Dan gives up the bedist they share and moves into the office in which he works. Hiding from his team leader, the cleaners and his friends - and trying to find somewhere to have a bath - become Dan's life-goals. Screw university, ambition and true love: Dan just wants to get by. Eight Minutes Idle is an alienating, fascinating, sweet and sour book. Dan is the most lovable existential anti-hero since Robert Smith's Stranger... Whoops, I mean the narrator of Nabokov's The Eye. A haunting read.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Funny, Makes me paranoid about call centres 25 Jan 2001
By A Customer
I haven't read anything else by Matt Thorne, and still don't know if I want to. I enjoyed '8 Minutes Idle', and found myself laughing aloud many times (the film with Nigel Havers and Andrew McCarthy does exist I discovered with research!). I now can't take it seriously if I have to phone help-lines because I am thinking about what the other person is doing whilst talking to me. I was disappointed with the end though, which was vague, and hurried. I felt like he had been given a word limit and was trying to cram the ending into as few words as possible. I recommend it if you want to laugh, but be prepared to be let down if you want a conclusion.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars starts v well...but no ending 16 Dec 1999
By A Customer
v enjoyable book till near the end when it just fizzles out. the ending is really poor and the author obviously got bored and couldn't be bothered to finish it properly. worth a read if you're bored but stick to more mainstream authors who actually deliver.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant 24 Sep 2000
By A Customer
Anyone who has been put off Matt Thorne by his dire third novel, 'Dreaming of Strangers', should not be disheartened. 'Eight Minutes Idle' suggests Thorne, if he remains true to himself and sticks to what he's good at, has the potential to be one of the best contemporary young writers around today. 'Eight Minutes Idle' may be set in a call centre, but this is a book which turns the ordinary inside out and makes it extraordinary. The prose is lucid and effortlessly readable and addictive from the first page. From then on, you are slowly drawn into the world of Dan - a intriguing character, who (despite a shady and violent past) and some disturbing faults (particularly his school-boyish atttitude to women) remains incredibly likeable and sympathetic. The novel is dark, wicked and extremely sexy - erotic scenes are usually the hardest for most authors to cope with (usually descending into Mills & Boon) cliche, Thorne manages to create electric set/sex pieces which are described with a light, ironic detachment. Afterwards, its this oddly dark sexual undercurrent rippling through the book which lingers on the imagination... The only worrying things are - Matt Thorne admitting to the book being semi-autobiographical (which bits? ) and the fact that his 3rd novel was so terrible - retreating in fluffy, cheesy romantic comedy, with all the sex cut out and replaced by cliches. Matt Thorne should go back to his roots and continue in 'Eight Minutes Idle' tradition - writing novels like this which are thought-provoking, disturbing and stunning. A brilliant novel.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Too long
By a good 100 pages. The story runs out of steam with a fair whack still left to drag yourself through. Try Cherry instead.
Published on 25 April 2012 by Hoopler
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but the ending is a cop out
Like the previous reviewers, I found the subject mildly entertaining given as we are now all exposed to call centers. Read more
Published on 13 Jan 2012 by Rachel James
5.0 out of 5 stars Very funny,intelligent prose: excruciating relationships
I heartily recommend this book- a searingly honest witty and intelligent inner dialogue about a few eventful weeks in the life of a young call centre employee who practises faking... Read more
Published on 25 Jan 2001
3.0 out of 5 stars Living on the edge
This is Matt Thorne's second book, and like his first, Tourist, is about someone getting by, but only just. Read more
Published on 10 Dec 2000
4.0 out of 5 stars Too Clever by Half
Told in the first person, this black comedy is ostensibly set in a Bristol call-centre. Dan is a twentysomething ne'er-do-well coping with an increasingly complex personal... Read more
Published on 10 Mar 2000
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting commentary but inconsistent
With plot lines centred around a call centre and the tedium of the labour within, Thorne has in general manufactured an interesting story with enough detail to enable the... Read more
Published on 13 Feb 2000 by domfay@hotmail.com
1.0 out of 5 stars rather weak and oversold
I found the book to be a rather uninteresting addition to the current vogue for the overly ironic. Somebody said this was a cross between Adrian Mole and Martin Amis. Read more
Published on 26 Nov 1999
4.0 out of 5 stars A funny and endearing book: Adrian Mole meets Martin Amis
This is an extremely well-written and cleverly perceptive book about a young bloke who is trying to eke out an existence in the worst of all office jobs: the call centre, whilst... Read more
Published on 16 Nov 1999 by jemma.selby@hefce.ac.uk
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