The idea of the first e-mail novel could have been a disaster but instead is a minor comic triumph thanks to Matt Beaumont's E
. The novel of letters goes back to Richardson, of course, but things have moved on from Regency rape to the lethal office politics of an advertising agency. The beleaguered protagonists may appear to be concerned with pitching for the Coca-Cola account but their real problem is watching their backs: the knives are out and everyone from head honcho David Crutton downwards is well aware that their careers are on the line. Another part of Beaumont's lineage in this unputdownable novel is the This Life
school of detailed interpersonal observation: no one character is allowed to assume centre stage; people screw, argue and discuss professional responsibility while the reader slowly makes his mind up about them from the information conveyed in the increasingly frantic e-mails.
Matt Beaumont, though, is primarily a sharp and witty observer of the social scene, with caustic humour that leaps out of his characters' electronic missives. And we're pitched headlong into the situation: it's impossible not to find ourselves riveted by Rachel, James, Harriet, Daniel and all the rest of Beaumont's at-the-edge characters as they strive to achieve a common goal and sink deeper and deeper in the waste matter. But did anybody ever send an e-mail like this one from Lorraine, a woman out to get her own way?:
Two days in London and I'm in advertising. I went to a temp agency last week and they got me into this place called Miller Shanks. They did those shite ads for Kimbelle--you know, the Artist Formerly Known as Ginger Spice bungee jumping, looking like someone shoved a high voltage cable up her arse. I'm working for the CEO (posh for managing director). One of the lads thinks he's on for a shag but he looks too much like Bart Simpson (overbite, spiky hair and slightly jaundiced). Mind you, after a few Stellas he starts looking like Brad Pitt, so who knows?
Praise for e
‘A brilliantly plotted comic novel about life in an advertising agency, narrated entirely through office emails. It gives me more sense that literature is alive and kicking than anything else I’ve read in these millennial 12 months.’ Humphrey Carpenter, Sunday Times Review of the Year
‘Lively, viciously funny and about as switched on as a novel can be’ Mirror