Hailing from the borough of Bromley myself (albeit growing up there in a different decade), this book has been on my "I really should read that" list for years. Having finally got round to it (the reading part took only a matter of days, you'll see why below) I thought I may as well do the book the courtesy of setting out my humble thoughts on it.
The pace of the book is quick. It's an uptempo tale taking you from the south London suburbs, to well-heeled Kensington, glamorous New York and back again before you know it. Characters that are bonkers. Characters you'd love to have a beer with. Characters you have an ache in your chest for out of pure sympathy. Characters you would literally do an about turn in the street to avoid.
I don't think it's the place of these reviews to spell out the plot, and other people have taken the trouble in other reviews in any case. But Kureishi captures that longing for meaning and excitement that all (normal) teenagers and people in their early 20s experience, to a tee. People of that age are rightly selfish and need to take things for granted in order to find out what really matters to them.
This book captures that spirit of freedom in life. You never know where you might end up, who with and why. You also never know when you might surprise yourself and just go after something completely different in life to everything you had worked for and previously valued. It's a breath of fresh air and Kureishi's blunt and often brutal prose exploits that essence to the max. He writes it as it is and I like that.
For me the best character in the book is the surburb itself. As a surbabnite who is strangely simulatenously proud and ashamed of the fact, Kureishi just nails the surburban environment with all its unknown rules, hierarchies and bizareness. Even though the Three Tuns pub referred to in the book, is now a faceless chain Italian restauarant, the social snobbishess held by those who live in Chislehurst to those that slum it in Penge remains as true as ever.
The character he creates in the suburb itself just provides the most compelling backdrop for the characters and plots placed on top.
A great read that manages to be both funny and beautifully written. A great combination you don't always find.