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The Maintenance of Headway Paperback – 2 Aug 2010


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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (2 Aug. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408800764
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408800768
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 229,526 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

'Once you've read this excellent, funny, intelligent book, it will make you look in a more kindly way on that harried driver as he zooms away into the night' Daily Telegraph 'It's finally happened: Britain's most famous bus-driving novelist has given us a novel about buses. All your questions will be answered: why do you wait for ages only for three to come at once? Who are those men who hang around bus stops muttering into handsets? And why do buses suddenly terminate halfway into your journey? But this is no mere gimmick from a mid-career writer run out of ideas. There is a perfect match between Mills's subject and his peculiar obssessions ... brilliant' Independent 'Uniquely delightful' Metro 'Mill's deadpan humour about the surreal workings of the transport authority has a distinct ring of truth. This novel should be required reading for those in charge of our chaotic public transport system' Daily Mail

About the Author

Magnus Mills is the author of five novels and two collections of stories, including The Restraint of Beasts, which won the McKitterick Prize and was shortlisted for both the Booker Prize and the Whitbread (now the Costa) First Novel Award in 1999. His books have been translated into twenty languages. He lives in London.

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Spencer Alley on 13 Dec. 2009
Format: Hardcover
Magnus Mills pretty much sticks to one topic, and THE MAINTENANCE OF HEADWAY is a strong example: groups of low-status working men trying (against the ordinary resistance of everyday life) to get their work done. It doesn't sound all that promising as a subject for fiction, but Mills uses it to show just how weird everyday working life really is. He is not a magical realist in the supernatural sense. He is a magical realist in making familiar routines both spooky and comic. Ever since THE RESTRAINT OF BEASTS (his first novel, 1998) I have read everything Mills writes, and remain amazed. One of a kind.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By D. P. Mankin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 19 Aug. 2009
Format: Hardcover
This a novella rather than a novel (infact it could be described as an extended short story). It's an entertaining read but, as has been pointed out by others, lacks the sinister undertones (and the sense that something rather bad might happen at any moment) that characterise Mills' work. His deadpan, sardonic humour is as strong as ever and I really enjoyed the closing pages! Not his best by any means but do not let this deter you from reading it. I would have preferred to wait another year so that it could be beefed up.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By MisterHobgoblin TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 19 Aug. 2009
Format: Hardcover
The Maintenance of Headway is an odd little book. At only 150 small pages, it doesn't take long to read but the author's name alone - Magnus Mills - is enough to whet the appetite. Mills specialises in slightly quirky workplace novels or novellas. He sets out a complex layer of detail - jargon, rules, procedures, factions - to lend credibility to the most absurd situations. Always, the focus is on getting the detail right, ignoring the dead bodies piling up.

The Maintenance of Headway is a little different. For a start, the surreal landscape has been replaced by a recognizable London landscape. The jargonized placenames: The Cross; the Arch; the Southern Outpost; and the Bejewelled Thoroughfare can all be readily identified. Then there's the workplace - no longer a pointless exercise in filling time, it's driving buses. Something that really happens - and something which Magnus Mills used to do himself, as it happens.

The book pitches straight into the ongoing battle between drivers and inspectors as drivers fight for those extra precious minutes and inspectors seek to maintain the gaps between buses. There is plenty of philosophical analysis of the running of buses: the paradox of late buses becoming ever later as it takes longer to board and disembark the extra passengers who have accumulated since the previous bus; the phenomenon of buses catching and leapfrogging one another; the rudeness of drivers; and the bizarre origins of the request stops. But this is no more than a bus passenger will have observed for him- or herself. Because, goodness knows, there's little else to think about on a typical bus commute in London.

The setting on the buses has advantages and disadvantages. The main advantage is that almost everything has a ring of truth about it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Simon Savidge Reads on 16 Jun. 2010
Format: Hardcover
I do like a good book which embraces the average normal man or woman. In the case of `The Maintenance of Headway' the average men, and one woman, who make up the book are a group of bus drivers driving the public to and from their depot in a large unnamed city (the book heavily conjured London throughout, but that might be because I live here). That pretty much is the synopsis of this fairly short novel, and no to be honest it didn't initially grab me that it would be a brilliant work of fiction from just that synopsis. Yet it is a marvellous, witty book that you will read quicker than you could think.

There were two things that really won me over with this book, the first was the characters. There is nothing extraordinary about them, but that's what makes them so great. You can picture this bunch of men (and a woman) going about their daily grind with complete clarity, in fact if you live in a city you have probably met a lot of them. Some of them love their job, a few to the point of obsessing, others are complete jobs-worth's (calling themselves `mass transportation operatives') and others are clearly there for the cash and if they can get over time the will try their damndest to. You don't see more than their daily working lives but you don't need to through their work ethics and methods Mills leaves you with firm opinions of what sort of personalities they are.

The second thing that won me over with the book is the feeling that I have been there too. We have all waited forty minutes for a buss for four to arrive, we have all been annoyed/pleased when someone runs to get on a bus and the driver stops just as they are pulling away, we have all cursed diversions and water leaks for making us late. With this book we see it and laugh along with it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mark West on 1 Nov. 2009
Format: Hardcover
A bitter disapointment... The first three books - absolutely brilliant. This, considering he's an ex bus driver and the subject of the book is London buses, goes (rather like the buses he sometimes describes) absolutely nowhere. I know, having worked on them myself, there's potential there for a great book. But this??? Just pages filled with (not many) words. It's not profound. It's not Mills. It's just Mills milking the publisher, and the public. The dialogue is nothing like the average bus driver's canteen - or world. There are some home truths but, a bit like the Scheme for Full Employment, but 200 times worse, this is an opportunity missed - a complete waste of money and time and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone - bus driver, ex or not. This is a very lazy novel.
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