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London and the South-East [Paperback]

David Szalay
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
RRP: £7.99
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Book Description

2 April 2009
Paul Rainey, an ad salesman, perceives dimly through a fog of psychoactive substances his dissatisfaction with his life- professional, sexual, weekends, the lot. He only wishes there was something he could do about it. And 'something' seems to fall into his lap when a meeting with an old friend and fellow salesman, Eddy Jaw, leads to the offer of a new job. But when this offer turns out to be as misleading as Paul's sales patter, his life and that of his family are transformed in ways very much more peculiar than he ever thought possible.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (2 April 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 009951589X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099515890
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 612,244 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


`London and the Southeast is a funny, painful, graphic demonstration that our job is a crucial part of our identity... It's compulsively readable'
-- Independent on Sunday

`a riveting read' -- TheLondonPaper

`a terrific debut, written in a present tense which flashes every so often into the past - a trick which Szalay pulls off with confidence... a tense and compelling read' -- The Independent

`engaging saga' -- Arena

`wonderfully dark' -- The Times

'darkly comic'
-- Time Out --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


`Szalay's satire is sharp, though his depictions of rush-hour raise the blood pressure to levels that are not advisable'

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Story of a Minor Breakdown 21 April 2008
Despite its rather puzzling title, this is a generally solidly constructed book, and a rather satisfying read. Mr Szalay's central character, Paul is a man on the edge; a seller of worthless ads in uncirculated magazines and a functional alcoholic, it is clear that something in his life is going to give. The characterisation is deftly handled, even if Mr Szalay doesn't entirely avoid slipping in a little of the sensibility of the author to the worldview of his central character. Still such leakage is probably inevitable, so this is the merest quibble.
The self absorption and despair is very nicely handled. His use of smoking on every possible occasion is superb, suggesting both the isolation of Paul, his entrapment in his situation, and a sort of hazy feeling that hangs over the entire work.

While this is primarily a novel about psychological breakdown, it doesn't compromise on narrative drive. We are drawn into Paul's very pedestrian world of work, his down at heel suburbian life, his rather tenuous relationships with even his closest family. The pace and intensity of the first two hundred pages, give way to a somewhat gentler second half in the novel, as Paul begins to rebuild his life. Anyone who has done the sort of mind numbing work that the author describes, or has been in Paul's situation, will admire the perceptive way in which the character's crisis is described.

All in all this is an excellent first novel and deserves a wide readership.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Felis
Fantastically funny, extremely well-observed and surprisingly humane given that it is basically about sharks. Paul is trying not to be one; the reader can make up his or her mind on that.

I suppose it helps if you know anything about this particular world and/or live in London. If you do, I very much recommend this. If you have ever sold advertising, this is about you and your colleagues! You will recognise some of them!

I gave my copy to someone (a fellow salesperson) and never got it back. I shall soon have to buy another one to own; that's how much I like this novel. Am looking forward to reading his other work, which I bought just on the strength of this one, and which is completely different.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great debut 24 Sep 2009
This is a terrific novel, one of the best fiction books I've read in a while.
Szalay is a writer of great skill and assurance and produces a gripping tale. It's effectively a story in two halves, both of which gradually build the tension until they reach blackly funny and richly satisfying denouements. You'd never think strawberries could be so well used as a plot device.
There are little whiffs of David Brent, Glengarry Glen Ross and Bukowski; dialogue is totally convincing; settings are extremely well evoked, and I loved the page which is just a list of pubs the lead character has visited (sounds lame, but it works).
Funny and melancholy, observant and ingenious, London And The South-east (great title) is a fantastically compelling read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive stuff..... 2 Aug 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
London and the South East is fabulously readable - Brilliant, unsentimental, witty and moving. Glengary Glen Ross is referenced in it which is apt as fans of that will love this.
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