It took me a while to get going with this book (the blurb? the dull cover?) but once I got into it I enjoyed it enormously. I certainly laughed out loud several times. Spencer's ghastly night shifts at the hospital, and the awful Sylvie and her passive/aggressive cat, were particularly hilarious. I was quite disappointed to finish Spencer's List and wished it had been longer. I look forward very much to Lissa Evans' next books; I hope they are as original and fresh as this one.
This book crackles with gentle wit, warmth and good humour. It concerns three friends, Fran, Spencer and Iris, as they struggle to come to terms with life's reverses and contradictions. Spencer has a legacy from his recently deceased lover, Mark, consisting of a flat full of exotic pets, including several hundred African Land Snails and a Chameleon which may or may not be dead. He also has a list of London sights, made up by Mark, for him to visit - a task he undertakes with no great enthusiasm. Ecology teacher Fran, meanwhile, is living the nightmare of negative equity with her insufferable brother and his wispy girlfriend in a house that is rapidly falling apart around them. Iris next door has twin 18 year-old sons - great, strapping, beautiful boys, who are seemingly incapable of fending for themselves. Their father, a long-gone American who Iris met while at medical school, doesn't even know they exist.
Spencer's problem is coming to terms with his grief at losing Mark, whilst Fran and Iris have separately reached moments in their lives where they must make changes or go under. How some of these problems - not all, because that would be verging on the formulaic - are resolved, takes the reader on an entertaining roller-coaster ride through the byways of the 30-something zeitgeist.
It's a good read, light and feisty, full of undemanding but intelligent insight, and memorably funny.
on 13 February 2002
Spencer's List is a marvellous first novel from a woman writer, Lissa Evans, that doesn't fall into the usual corny `chick list' category. Instead it's a book about real life and believable, ordinary characters who work in the public sector, struggle with paying the mortgage and daily deal with the wrecks of former relationships and irascible relatives. In case this sounds a bit `earnest' , it is above all extremely funny. Lissa Evans
has a fine eye for the troubled minutiae of daily life and her observations of daily catastrophe had me laughing out loud ( on a train actually!) Her characters are thoroughly rounded and a host of minor characters ( Dr Spelko, Tammy McHugh , Sylvie) help add credibility to a story that bowls along neatly from the first page. Above all it's extremely satisfyingly crafted. The narrative is absorbing and the interelationships between Fran the urban farmer, her neighbour Iris and her all too believable teenage sons and the gay doctor Spencer are all woven together in a neat but also credible way. It's not often we see a novel that is both very well written and fun to read. I hope Lissa Evans gets the readership she deserves for her debut.
on 15 February 2002
A touching mosaic which pieces together the stories of three friends and the characters that drop into their lives, offering the reader a familiarly absurd picture of life in the capital. Spencer's List is a pleasure to read. I work freelance from home, and took a rainy afternoon off to curl up in bed and read it from beginning to end. However, don't mistake this book for a literary lightweight. It is clever and well written, and the characters stay with you for some time. A definite must for any one keen to keep in touch with new trends in fiction!
on 11 February 2002
A warm, funny novel that will strike a chord with anyone struggling to survive the everyday complexities of London life. Evans writes directly but delicately and as you make your way through the novel, you feel like you really do know the characters. In fact, Iris, Fran et al begin to seem like your own set of friends. This is a good antidote to the current spate of Brit-chick-lit; an amusing, tender novel that reminds you what good writing is all about.
on 13 May 2002
Spencer's List deals movingly and warmly with the complications of relationships - with lovers, ex-lovers, dead lovers, parents, work colleagues, neighbours et al. Lissa Evans deals with her characters in a deft manner, whilst allowing them a depth and range of emotions. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to her future work.
on 23 January 2016
this is not the madcap slapstick hilarity that bores for england, but instead a rather low-key story of the daily lives & biting frustrations of various people to whom most of us can easily relate. funny, sympathetic & quite engrossing. a v.good read.
(i agree this cover is wildly boring!)
on 23 May 2005
Having read the only other review on your site, I felt I had to respond. I also borrowed this book from my library, on the strength of the "borrower's recommend" label and I was pleasantly surpised . Not a challenging read perhaps, but a nice feel good novel and a good yarn. Good holiday read.
on 23 May 2005
I read this when it first came out because I had read a review in one of the broadsheets. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Almost flawless, very funny, exceptionally witty, and full of characters you just wish you could have as part of your circle of friends. I was sorry to finish it. But joy oh joy...there's another helping of this author's brilliance in the form of 'Odd One Out'...If you want a happy novel, far removed from the ugly urban brutal reality of life, if escapism is what you crave, then Lissa Evans is the author for you...you won't regret it, I promise you...
on 27 April 2002
'Spencer's List' is a good, light read with engaging characters but not laugh-out-loud funny as I would have expected. With blurbs on the cover from the likes of Meera Syal, Graham Norton, and John O'Farrell calling it 'bloody funny, very funny and funny,' respectively I would have thought I'd be rolling around on the floor. I also cannot find a point to the character of Fran or any of the Fran-related people at the farm. There are a few too many marginal people in the story who probably could have been amalgamated without ruining the plot. More Spencer and less Fran or no Fran at all, for a start. I get the impression that perhaps this first-time novelist was trying to appeal to too many groups of readers. She's got a single mum, a singleton, gay parents,a 'fey' hippy type, O.A.P's, nearly someone from just about every group you could think of. Too much. Regardless of these minor issues, though, it is an excellent holiday type book. I think that Lissa Evans has great potential. I found Spencer's grief very believable and would have liked to have spent more time with the title character-perhaps more time with his list.