Alexei Sayle can write a very funny sentence and has wit and style. Though he was acclaimed by Richard and Judy to be "a brilliant writer" and "a great novelist," I have to say this goes too far. He's not a great novelist, but he is a very funny writer.
This book has an ambitious sub-text, and it is about women who struggle to make sense of a hostile world. The novel opens with battered, bruised, Harriet checking into a hotel somewhere near Crewe where she will stay until her money runs out, then take a menial job at the hotel for room and board. The novel then proceeds to tell the story of how she got there. It is not exactly what one might guess from Harriet's physical condition.
The novel takes on conventional standards of beauty, the soullessness of modern culture and community, the failure of spiritual beliefs to provide solace, and in general copes as well as any novel can with such a disparate and wide-ranging, not to say unfocused, range of subjects. Alexei Sayle writes well from a woman's viewpoint and the novel is engaging and amusing, as well as attempting some serious under-the-surface commentary. Much of it verges on the surreal, however, and it is this that some readers may find distracting. This is a pity because, viewed in its entirety, it is a highly original and entertaining book.