An enjoyable but often frustrating book about a middle-class boy who gets led astray by his super-rich, super-troubled best friend at Oxford. On the positive side, Alderman writes extremely entertainingly and creates some likeable and interesting characters (particularly Jess, the violinist and music student who becomes the girlfriend of the narrator, and Franny, the Jewish intellectual student who has complicated relationships with men, and who I'd like to have seen more of). Much of the story is set in Oxford, where the group of friends in the novel are students - unfortunately, though there are some lovely descriptions of Oxford as a place, Alderman tends to caricature the dons, and soon gives up on trying to give a proper picture of student life (the six friends in the novel are so cushioned by the anti-hero's money that they end up living a life distant from the university as such). My main problems with the novel were firstly that I found the super-rich anti-hero Mark so dislikeable (always a problem in a novel if someone is a main character) and the narrator, James, a rather weak and boring character. Had Alderman tried telling the story from several perspectives it might have made a richer and more interesting whole - I'd have liked to hear more from Franny, the mysterious Spanish girl Emmanuella and from Jess. James just wasn't interesting enough as a person to carry the weight of the whole novel. The novel became increasingly claustrophobic, with James and Mark locked in their destructive affair - by the end, I was thoroughly fed up with both of them. All I hope is that James really did escape for good and make something of himself (and develop more of a personality!) at the end of the novel. Certainly worth reading - and I'll probably re-read it - but one was left feeling that this could have been a much more interesting book than it was, and with a feeling of distaste for the extremely rich and powerful.