- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: Abacus; New edition edition (1 May 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0349114897
- ISBN-13: 978-0349114897
- Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.8 x 2.7 cm
- Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,489,601 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
New Cardiff: Film tie-in Paperback – 1 May 2003
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Three pages into Charles Webb's New Cardiff the hero Colin Ware observes that there is:
a tradition in Nineteenth Century American fiction ... where you have love gone wrong, then off the person gets packed to Europe ... to put their relationship behind them. ... I thought I'd see if it would work for me a hundred years or so later, the other way around.
Thus indicating that Charles The Graduate Webb's novel (the first for 25 years), is to be situated in a tradition spanning Henry James to Notting Hill: the clash of these two cultures separated by the same language.
Colin, an English artist, has been cruelly tricked by his life-long love, and goes to repair his broken heart in New Cardiff, Vermont, following in the footsteps of the original settlers from Wales who came in search of coal. Colin is the Jamesian innocent in reverse, finding wisdom, ethical solidity and artistic inspiration in the straightforward American values of the friends he makes and in the woman with whom he falls in love. There is a pared-down simplicity to this novel (of which perhaps 80 per cent is dialogue), that gives it the quality of a fairy tale, or perhaps a modern morality play.
But, true to the Jamesian original, satire is never far from the surface. Having recently undergone a transatlantic transplantation himself, Webb is eminently qualified to pull the rug from under the stereotypical beliefs each culture has about the other. In essence it is about the tricks life plays on us, and the crueller ones we play on each other. This is a warm, occasionally very funny book, with some glimmers of the talent that made The Graduate a timely masterpiece, but hardly worth the quarter-century wait.--Robert Mighall --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
It is rare to come across something done with so light a touch but such precision...it's spot on (LITERARY REVIEW)
Delightful...Webb writes with...suppressed joy in his creations and this joy quickly transfers itself to the reader. (SUNDAY TIMES)
Rewarding for those who appreciate subtlety and wit. (TIME OUT)
A masterpiece of poignancy and bittersweet romance. Let's hope we don't have to wait another 25 years for its successor. (DAILY MAIL)
Inside This Book(Learn More)
Colin was standing in front of the art supply store when it opened at nine o'clock, and raised his hand slightly in greeting as a woman walked toward him on the other side of its glass door. Read the first page
Front Cover | Copyright | Excerpt | Back Cover
Top Customer Reviews
Overall, then, enticing enough to keep you reading to the end, but perhaps a little lacking in narrative. It'll need another reading before I really make up my mind!
Brit artist escapes collapsed love affair to regain equilibrium in a New England town. Webb's dialogue has not been bettered for sure-eared parody of English as she is spoke both sides of the Atlantic. I assume CW is American, and he lives in England, which explains his utter skill.
It's slated for a movie, and what a killer it'll make, and what plum parts all round.
A brilliant touch is to have sketches of the people that the central character draws and they are perfect. The temptation is to turn to the end of the chapter to see what 'Fred' (Webb's partner) has come up with. Every one a winner.
I've given it as a gift to so many loved ones and with one accord they've phoned to thank and congratulate on my unerring choice.
Of course, what else from the pen of 'The Graduate'? But this really *is* special and no one will be disappointed.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
This story has much going for it. It's a classic love story complete with jealous rivalry, a long journey, and the promise (or threat) of marriage, but with quirky and entertaining plot twists to keep it fresh. The dialogue is rapid and often witty. The residents of New Cardiff are an amusing set of characters and provide comic relief.
But there's nothing in the story to provide comic relief *from*. The author never really gets into his story. The book is - despite its heft - actually quite short, with lots of blank space on each page, and is almost entirely composed of dialogue. The limitations of this format - no description or exposition - nearly overwhelm the story, and make any exploration of the characters or of the larger themes of the book impossible.
The book's continuous banter is surprisingly easy to read, and a hundred pages can fly by in an hour. But this ease and speed have a price: the whole book - all 354 pages of it - can be read in an evening and forgotten by the next morning, a frivolous waste of a story that could be so much more interesting.
Colin Ware is an English guy who has just been dumped for another man. Miserable, he decides to get over her (in the tradition of old novels) by going to the US, and somehow ends up in the dinky Vermont town of New Cardiff. The inhabitants are a bit odd but friendly, and Colin befriends quite a few when he sketches their portraits. He also becomes acquainted with Mandy, a smart, supportive young woman who starts giving him therapy for his broken heart.
But then Vera -- the woman who dumped Colin -- comes onto the scene. She reveals that the guy she supposedly dumped him for was all part of an elaborate joke. Colin forgives her for her involvement in tricking him, but now he's got an awkward love triangle to deal with. Vera is determined to scupper his new relationship with Mandy, and Mandy is saying that she never wants to see him again.
"New Cardiff" starts off on a promising note, with a guy going to new places to mend his broken heart. And the basic plot is a classic one -- a love triangle where the third party has to deal with old and new lovers, as represented by the countries they come from. But it feels instantly forgettable. Webb adds nothing new to the tale, and despite being around 350 pages long, the story itself is very short.
But Webb's writing is not up to the task -- it's suspended somewhere between bland screenplay and not-detailed-enough fiction. No descriptions, little action -- just page after page of dialogue. And the dialogue isn't exactly Shakespeare either: "It doesn't really show." "It doesn't?" "We've had worse." "Than this?" "Much." There are stretches of dialogue that are ALMOST witty, but they fall short because they are so underwritten.
And as a result, the characterization suffers. There's plenty of chemistry and cute bits between Mandy and Colin -- although his tale of first having sex with Vera is cringingly bad -- but unfortunately Vera is a cardboard cutout. The villagers also are bogged down with basic personalities and nothing else-- the nosy guy, the Jesus freak, and so on.
"New Cardiff" suffers from a terrible case of underwriting and an overabundance of cliches. While it has some cute moments, it's underwritten and overlong, and nothing you'll remember.
New Cardiff is a romantic comedy, so if you're looking for a book which boasts profound social commentary,(not to say that his observations of american culture aren't precise and hilarious, Webb has a sharp, artistic eye) this is not for you. Webb doesn't boast anything at all.
Webb's gift for not taking himself too seriously may cause some readers not to take this delightful novel seriously. There are those who say the work of Jane Austen is trivial, so I suspect that this book, for all it's humor, inteligence, irony, and exhilerating lack of vanity, will face similar criticism. But in this readers mind, there is nothing less trivial than love, art, or laughter.
I am so pleased to know that there is a movie being made with Colin Firth and Heather Graham in the lead roles. Inspired casting!