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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
TOP 100 REVIEWERon 5 September 2015
First published in 1995, Susie Boyt's debut novel 'The Normal Man' focuses on Janey March, a young woman who enjoys baking (her grandmother was an excellent cook who could bake a cake you'd swim the channel for) and entering competitions (something she used to do with her much-loved father when he was alive); her actor boyfriend has ended their relationship and after having lost three stones in weight, gained from years of comfort eating after the death of her father, and the strain of looking after her nervous, fragile mother, Janey is looking for the love of a normal man. Needing a break from her thesis on Jane Austen (for which she has a triumphant first sentence but not a huge amount more) Janey forces herself to go to the housewarming party of a friend, and there sitting alone, longing for someone with whom she could go shopping at the market and for whom she could make blackberry and apple crumble once the autumn comes, Janey espies the tall, handsome Edward and wonders whether he could be the 'normal man' she is looking for. At first, things seem to be going well - the normal man notices Janey and seems enchanted by her unusual party chatter ("Would you like to hear a poem I wrote when I was four?") to which he responds with warmth and amusement. But then something happens at the party which sets in motion a series of events which forces Janey to re-examine her past life, her past love affairs and how the loss of her father has so very deeply affected her...

A beautifully written debut where Susie Boyt writes with perception and compassion - especially about loss and bereavement and the vulnerability of her quirky young heroine - and a story that draws the reader immediately into the life of Janey March. This is a short novel (184 pages) so I shan't discuss the story further for fear of revealing too much and spoiling it for prospective readers, but I will say that I wish it had been longer in order for me to learn more about its interesting characters - especially Janey's father, an entertainer of the old-fashioned variety, who had such an impact on his daughter. That said, in spite of the book's brief length, Ms Boyt was able to portray her characters and their personalities with a vividness that is unusual in book of this brevity and I found this a witty and engaging read. I have read, reviewed and can recommend this author's:The Small Hours and I also have:The Last Hope of Girls on one of my bookshelves and I am looking forward to reading and reviewing that soon too.

4 Stars.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 19 February 1999
This book is such a good read. The characterisation and dialogue are a joy. It literally made me laugh and cry. Susie Boyt is so good at depicting the emotional challenges that face people just trying to live in the world. And the writing completely brings the characters to life for the reader. I couldn't recommend it more highly.
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