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4.2 out of 5 stars
Inheritance
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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 28 June 2010
Ranging from early twentieth century Turkey, to Australia, to modern-day London, this is a romantic and tragic story of betrayal and missed opportunities. How far would you stretch your morals for the chance to inherit £17 million?

Andy Larkham's life and career are going nowhere. He works for a small publishing house, Carpe Diem, that specialises in publishing self-help books, his fiancée is about to dump him and he has no money and mountains of debt. And that's before we begin to talk about his dysfunctional family. His only real role model was the Montaigne-loving teacher, Stuart Furnivall, whose funeral he is late for. But an unexpected inheritance of £17 million has a habit of changing one's outlook on life. But while he trades self-help for help yourself, Andy also realises that he has inherited a mystery.

The first half of the book is an often amusing story of one of life's losers struggling to cope with strange twists in his life. I was reminded very much of Nick Hornby or Jonathan Coe in style, but the book changes tack half way through as we explore the back story of his mystery benefactor. And while I throughly enjoyed both parts of the book, I couldn't help but feel that the two stories didn't quite fit together as smoothly as they could have done. I'd grown quite attached to Andy in the first half, but for the vast majority of the second half, he is merely an observer to a story of globe-spanning intrigue that takes in early twentieth century Turkey and Australia. I don't want to reveal too much about this part of the book though lest it affects your enjoyment of the first half.

Yes, there are themes that are reflected in both stories - lost love, unexpected wealth, broken families and missed opportunities, but the two stories seem to exist next to each other rather than melding as perhaps one would ideally like.

Ultimately though it's story about identity and finding your place in the world - both themes explored by Montaigne - and Nicholas Shakespeare is a thoughtful and highly readable writer. The benefactor's story in particular is absorbingly told and could easily have been extended to an epic tale in its own right, and even the most unlikely events are rendered believable in his hand. This is perhaps more what fans of Nicholas Shakespeare's fiction might expect from him, but he proves equally at home in the lighter, more comic moments.

It's certainly a fun, if slightly uneven, read. There's romance, moral dilemmas and a story of betrayal that unfolds that you almost certainly won't see coming. And it asks thoughtful questions about what we inherit from our parents.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 10 November 2010
Nicholas Shakespeare's novel is a rare treat. The narrative is beautifully written and explores diverse themes such as betrayal, loss and control. There is tragedy in these themes but there is also a thread of hope that runs parallel with the desperation and ultimately you feel there is hope for some of the characters. The book starts with a comical situation at the funeral which has huge consequences for the main character Andy Larkham. The story moves geographically through Australia, England and Armenia as well as moving chronologically, weaving important historical events with very personal detail.
I found this book incredibly easy to read but it left me with so much to think about. The novel is dotted with intriguing metaphors which gave the book texture. As with many of Shakespeare's books it left me looking forward to his next piece of writing!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 28 August 2010
This enthralling and original book is about many things. Love and betrayal. The effects of divorce and custody battles. How to deal with an enormous financial windfall? Always wanting to be someone else vs. being someone different from what others believe. Unlikely personal histories meet through a chance event, and chance plays as a big a role in this tale as planning and determination to meet set objectives. Too abstract?
The main protagonists are a benefactor and a beneficiary. The first half of the novel sketches the life of underpaid, debt-laden Andy Larkham(AL), junior editor in a small company specialized in self-help books whose girl friend, a successful model gives up on him. When a beloved former teacher dies AL arrives late at his final service. He is the only other attendant apart from an older woman and a man who asks him to sign the condolence register afterwards. A girl who arrived even later is not asked to sign. At the end of the service it becomes evident to AL that he chose the wrong venue. He attended the service of a complete stranger. He signs anyway.
AL soon learns he is the beneficiary of GBP 17m, resigns his job, buys a luxury flat, car, etc. and embarks on a spending spree at home and abroad. But after less than 2 years of this AL is bored and begins his quest to learn more about his benefactor...
This is the subject of the second part of the book, which NS could easily have turned into a strong stand-alone novel. AL's benefactor is not at all who or what the few Londoners who know him, believe he is. Relevant tags for him are the year 1915 in Eastern Turkey, his birth in Aleppo, Syria, his coming of age in Perth and Sydney, Australia, retiring to London as a rich man. And there is a third person, who is his nemesis, his shadow, who followed him to Britain to cause great damage to him and his loved ones without his knowledge.
This is a rich, marvelous piece of work. It contains moral choices on the part of benefactor and beneficiary that individual readers and reviewers have to come to terms with. This reviewer would have made some but not all the choices AL and his benefactor made during their lives. These moral issues cry out for discussion at book readers' clubs. The book's ending is a bit of a letdown. But other readers will celebrate it as a happy end.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Andy Larkham is struggling: his employment at the self-help publisher Carpe Diem is going nowhere; his fiancée is about to move o; and he has debts but no money. Perhaps it comes as no surprise that he turns up late for the funeral of his favourite schoolteacher and mentor, Stuart Furnivall. Instead, Andy finds himself at the service for Christopher Madigan, a wealthy recluse who has decided to leave his estate to whoever turns up.

This chance attendance has unintended consequences for every aspect of Andy's life. What would you do if you inherited £17 million from a complete stranger simply by attending the wrong funeral? While Andy loses himself in the pursuit of spending money at first, he eventually becomes interested in the story of Christopher Madigan. Who was Christopher Madigan, where did his money come from and why didn't he leave it all to his only daughter Jeanine? In tracing Christopher Madigan's life and identity Andy finds himself on a journey which started in early twentieth century Turkey. With the assistance of friends and Madigan's former housekeeper, Andy finds out as much about himself as he does about Christopher Madigan.

`In every man is the history of all men.'

I enjoyed this novel. With its triumphs, and its tragedies, with its opportunities and opportunism, it's a reminder that character, like the iron ore that also appears in the story, frequently needs to be mined in order to be appreciated.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
What would you do if you unexpectedly, randomly inherited a massive amount of money? That's what happens to Andy Larkham, a struggling publisher in a dead-end job, laden with debts and a fiancée who's ready to move on.

After toying with - and dismissing - the idea of donating it to charity, Andy spends up large. He buys a wonderful apartment and an expensive car, splurges on his (somewhat resentful) family and friends, travels the world, finds a new girlfriend. But gradually he realises that he's inherited more than just money. He's inherited the responsibility to understand the man who left him the inheritance, to "understand why it's [him] and not anyone else who's ended up with his money". Consequently a large part of the book is a story within the story, although the two connect in a very satisfying way.

Nicholas Shakespeare has a precise, almost pedantic writing style. Initially it's somewhat irritating to read, but then you get used to it. The story moves from 1950s Turkey though 1960s Australia to modern day London. It's a highly absorbing read with terrific characters.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 26 August 2010
I am a long-time admirer of Shakespeare's novels and biographies and with his latest novel, "Inheritance", he delights me again. The plot is ingenious, the writing is superb (and very funny in parts, revealing Shakespeare's gift for humour) and the moral lessons are profound. I particularly liked how Shakespeare used Montaigne within the plot to provide insight into issues around identity. Shakespeare has long been one of the best (and most underrated) British writers. And as with most of his novels and non-fiction work, the joy is to be found in the details of his writing where one can get lost in beautifully written passages that beg to be read over and over. -K. Tuttle
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on 21 October 2014
Andy Larkham, in his late 20s, impoverished and working for a small London publishing firm, attends the funeral of a former schoolteacher. Or rather, he mistakenly goes to the wrong service and is instead present at the sparsely attended final rites of Christopher Madigan, a complete stranger. Events become bizarre when he shortly afterwards receives a letter from Madigan’s legal representatives, which states that under the terms of their client’s will, his estate is to be divided up between those present for the funeral service. In short, Andy receives a windfall of £17 million from the stranger. This takes place in 2005, and most of the rest of the narrative is devoted to the events that lead up to this. Madigan, of Armenian descent, grows up in post-WWII Australia, where the source of his immense wealth is the discovery of a rich iron-ore mine.
Following a period of unsatisfactory high spending, Larkham becomes absorbed in uncovering Madigan’s story, wanting to find out the truth both about the man and Janine, Madigan’s estranged daughter. It is a tale of betrayal and deception, of love and tragic misunderstanding. Unlikely though the plot is, it is a story that possesses a power and drive that fully engages the reader, following the life of Madigan and the misrepresentations made by others so that his reputation as a selfish miser are shown to be just fiction.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 24 September 2010
The central event of Nicholas Shakespear's book is a brilliant concept. It is a pity that reviewers seem compelled to tell us in advance exactly what it is, but I suppose that that is inevitable. It raises some nice moral problems but I do not think that he followed them through in an altogether satisfactory way. This is because he concentrates on the history of how the situation came about and does not allow his principle character to develope a response to the problems with which he is faced; and the reader (or at any rate this reader) does not end up feeling much sympathy with him or satisfaction in the outcome.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 26 July 2010
This is a rare and, I would even say, extraordinary book. I finished it in one sitting, gripped by the plot but also by the characters and beautifully observed prose. Each time I felt I knew where it was going, it took me off in a quite unanticipated direction. I started it thinking Patrick White, then early Evelyn Waugh, then it became like nothing I've read. It renews my faith in fiction.
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on 9 February 2014
the novel begins brilliantly, with an engrossing premise and vital, attractive characters, but falls down an alice-hole midway into a ponderous re-telling of a meandering, boring back-story filled with cardboard people and opaque events for which the reader fails entirely to summon sympathy. meanwhile the present-day characters fail to develop, and we lose them. disappointing! but the writing is exquisite and should serve a concise story set in present real-time.
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