on 25 November 2013
Gosh. Where to begin? Well, I've never read anything quite like this novel, which is to say there was no novel to prepare me for this one, not even Amis's other novels, or at least the three I read, which included Money, i.e. London Fields's predecessor. I'd heard London Fields was a complex murder mystery, and it is, but "complex" doesn't begin to hint at how complex, and "murder mystery," well, that could have a million meanings here. So, what is the novel about? On the surface, it's about the lives of a dart throwing lowlife, a femme fatale, and a rich twit, set in West London, but if you look further you see commentary on class and corruption, and I mean human corruption, all those awful feelings we have, all those weird desires, and all that pain - and the strange ways our insides come out, set against a backdrop of sordid, post modern, materially spoilt malaise. It's a dark book (and a dart book). It's a funny book (Amis can assume the role of literacy magician - or clown). And it's a true book (there are Keith Talents, Nicola Sixes, and Guy Clinches everywhere). But it's a bit long, and although Amis can work thousands of sentences into patterns you've never seen before (within convention, he destroys convention), the story is, um, er, nebulous, but maybe life is nebulous, so it's hard to make a criticism here. The book frustrated me at times, but again, I'm not sure it deserves a criticism for that either. I enjoyed Money better, but London Fields is certainly deeper. You may need some perseverance, but by book's end, you will likely think about London Fields and Amis's other novels. London Fields was hard-going at times, but worth it. No one can write like Martin Amis, and I'm now I'm curious to know what they do with the movie. Four stars.
Troy Parfitt is the author of Why China Will Never Rule the World
on 6 April 2015
I hadn't read any Martin Amis, but because I enjoy visiting
London as well has having enjoyed his father's novel 'Lucky
Jim' I was intrigued by 'London Field's.
As I don't tend to be able to read very quickly I was a little
put off by how many pages Mr Amis's book contained (470).
However I was enthralled by this novel. The character's are
interesting, a blend of working class and well to do folk.
The way Amis write's is both funny and sensitive and the London
he tells us of he knows very well. The central character Keith Talent
is a fine one. A man who is ducking and diving and striving to get to
the top in the game of dart's. A cracking name for such a character
I recommend 'London Field's' to Amazon and I am looking forward
now to reading more of Mr Amis jnr's stories.
on 6 August 2008
Other reviews have given synopses, so I'll skip that...
Firstly, this book is worth reading if you live in London - Amis captures perfectly the bizarre juxtaposition of sleaze against wealth that is everywhere in the city, and the book is wonderfully atmospheric of both of these aspects of London and more.
The wider appeal of the book is surely Amis' writing rather than the plot itself; his astounding use and manipulation of the English language makes 'London Fields' a real tour de force.
Most of all though, the general obvservations of peoples' behaviours, psychologies (particularly with regard to sex), reactions to one another, and the varying viewpoints on life offered here are captivating and, I would say, remove the need for a gripping, suspenseful story; these observations are also often made in an extremely witty way.
However, I also disagree with other reviewers, who claim that "nothing happens" in 'London Fields': this is a highly misleading thing to say about this book - there are several narrative strains which meet excitingly at the end of the novel and I personally found that despite Amis' determination to make the book more about the 'journey to the climax' than the ending itself, there is real tension. I do agree, though, that the plot might not be the main focus of the book.
All in all, I would recommend this book to almost anyone who feels that they might want to read something which is something other than (or more than) just a story and experience the writing of someone with a trully masterful command of the English language.
This seems to be a novel people tend to either love or hate, and it's not hard to see why. First of all, it is awfully long-and for such a long book, not a lot happens, which is bound to upset some people. Essentially, you have the tale of a not-so-romantic triangle comprised of Nicola Six (messed up psychic sexpot), Guy Clinch (posh, married, naive, and weak-willed), and Keith Talent (underclass wide-boy, schemer, on-the-fiddle, racist, sexist, alcoholic, generally scummy pub denizen), told by a dying American writer in London. The tale is set at the end of the millennium, with some vague catastrophe threatening the world, so it's safe to believe that the trio's story has some larger meaning. The west London of this book is a pretty nasty immoral place, where carpe diem means grab what you want and screw everyone else. As the physical world of the book obliquely slides toward disaster, the moral landscape is already destroyed. The protagonists themselves are stereotypes, the two men representing the opposite ends of the social spectrum, and the most recognizable "type" of modern British male: upper-crust wimp, lower-class lout. Nicola Six exists solely to satirize, and thus subvert, their sexual fantasies with her psychosexual games. Amis appears to be painting a larger picture about British enrapturement with... well, it's not clear precisely what Nicola represents. Capitalism? America? Or just the dreams and fantasies that have led the country astray? Overarching metaphors aside, Amis can write the hell out of sentence, and there's plenty of awfully good description and dialogue here-especially when it comes to wide-boy Keith. There are large swathes of the book devoted to darts, and Amis makes it come alive. Some of this is devastatingly funny amidst the overall dark and bleak tone. My own favorite line is about scratches on Guy's face that (and this is not verbatim, but give's the gist): "made him look like a determined, but inept rapist"). Ultimately the book is too long, and the broad main characters and interjecting author get rather tedious. Still, it's a major work of modern British literature and merits a look if you're into that stuff.
on 23 October 2013
My first Amis and after the first couple of chapters I was thrilled. The prose just sparkled and fizzed with an acidity that ,at frst,seemed intoxicating. What could go wrong. Here was a wonderfully implausible plot woven around and about and through the lives of some wonderfully plausible yet implausible characters: the execrable Keith Talent, the enigmatic Nichola Six and the woeful Guy Clinch. And all underwritten by a deeply suspect narrator. But then it was as if the prose, as good as it was, just kept on going and going but the story went nowhere.And without a story even Amis's prose just becomes so much verbiage.
Set in the suppurating sore of the great wen that is London the Dickensian undertow became increasingly obvious. Keith was our new Artful Dodger, Nichola was clearly based on Estella from Great Expectations, beautiful but cold and empty and trained to break men's hearts. Only Amis is not Dickens. In Dickens the acidity is always tempered with humanity but in Amis it just turns sour. It's like drinking vinegar, after a while your tongue curls up and you just don't want anymore because ultimately there is no nourishment in it. By the hundredth page of observing Nicola and Keith and Guy in their macabre deathdance I just began to feel like a voyeur idly watching people I despised just for the sake of being able to despise then further. Like Nichola the book is all front, all show, but ultimately has nothing to say except that its a wicked old world and most of us are fools or knaves to go on believing in it. This we all already know. However if you want to sneer at the undeserving poor , the chavs, the underclass, or call it what you will, then Amis provides a good long peepshow.
on 22 July 2000
London Fields is not packed with action and events, because its strengths lie in different areas. The characters are brilliantly crafted, simultaneously engaging and complete to the reader, whilst being totally unrealistic and caricatured. In Nicola Six, Amis has created both a male fantasy and a female icon, and Keith Talant is strangly likeable despite his disgraceful behaviour.
The constantly shifting narrative voice keeps the reader focused on the several interwoven plots, and generates continual questions as to who is controlling the actions and the reporting of them. London Fields is not an easy book to read, and sometimes Amis' style can get a little pretentious, but the more you read it, the more accessible it becomes.
on 1 January 2012
London Fields (1989) is a murder mystery, in reverse. Set in London in 1999, with an undefined crisis on the horizon, the story follows the sexually savvy Nicola Six, who has a premonition about her own death, as she tries to identify and entice her murderer. A willing murderee, Nicola develops relationships with the yobbish Keith Talent, a petty criminal and darts enthusiast, and the affluent but weak Guy Clinch, driving both men to sexual distraction in an attempt to propel one of them to murder. The story is relayed by a fourth character; dying American author Samson Young, who socialises with the characters, drawing inspiration for his final book from their `story'.
As with Amis's previous work the lack of motive becomes central to the novel, creating, more than a whodunnit, a whydunnit. An uneasy air hangs over the characters determined path, with Nicola's desire for death never fully explored. Indeed, as much as a personal death wish Nicola comes to represent the world itself, a willing murderee, longing for death but in need of assistance. Intricately conveyed, the novel's themes have to be carefully picked from the tangled plot. What at first appears to be a meditation on the potential for nuclear holocaust and its devaluation of human life slowly becomes a metaphor for the act of writing, and the death of the author and of literature itself. The postmodern condition remains under constant consideration in a variety of ways, for example, the abdication of social responsibility due to the filtration of information and stupefying effect of television.
The dialogue and some of the set pieces are assuredly majestic; Amis creates the most acutely observed atmosphere and, through Keith in particular, crafts colloquial discourse of almost poetic brilliance. The depiction of deprived London and its inhabitants is magnificent, engulfing one in the texture and language of poverty, and contrasting it with its polar opposite - a stark reminder of London's bizarre juxtaposition, where the lives of rich and poor are so intertwined. As in Money, Amis includes an authorial presence, in this case Samson Young (in addition to absent character Mark Asprey, often referred to as M.A.) who, far from enjoying Amis's narrative authority, is unable to fully get to grips with the situation. Unlike the unruly lives of his characters, Amis retains tight control of the most complex of structures, comfortably disguising the skill needed to create such a multilayered work.
Like much of Amis's writing London Fields courts controversy; it was excluded from the Booker Prize shortlist because some members of the judging panel were offended by perceived sexism within the novel. Certainly, the work is searingly written and does not compromise on its candid and experimental inclinations, although sometimes these are more justifiable than others. Aside from the possible offence some readers might find in the novel the main complaint is undoubtedly the plot itself. Despite being beautifully written, the characters are exaggerated versions of reality and the vehicle they inhabit is at times slow moving and a little tedious. But these are auxiliary issues when compared to the richness and depth of the text as a whole.
on 8 October 2014
Under no mean have i managed to find a review of London Fields that has helped me understand what this book is about. I could only fathom that either people loved it or hated it, with very little shades of grey in between. so i am attempting to review what i found to be one of the most bizarre or mystical attempts of modern British literature .. With a word of warning before you succumb to my analysis: i am not even sure i fully understood myself the message the author is trying to proclaim.
Set in a shabby futuristic messed up world in the end of the millennium, where there's some sort of nameless world conflict involving the US, and Britain is in shambles: the poor are poorer - the rich are richer, you get cheat out of everything possible (a stereo mustn't ever be left in a car), with a "slummy" feel to things. Amis does a really great job criticising the British society and way of life, showing through the lives of the characters the profound class differences in the UK, London in particular.
The book is a triangle where 3 characters from so different worlds are meeting and gets entangled: Nicola (mysterious seducer, cold & heartless sex addict who set out to play with the other characters' lives), Keith (the cheat - a rough lazy English who dwells at pubs and tries to make ends meat out of cheating and getting bye, also sex addict with many "birds" on call) & Guy (the rich, naive, out of place and out of his depth who gets infatuated with Nicola). The story is told by Sam, an American author with decades behind him of writers block, who is staying at a successful British colleague’s apartment in London.
At the start of the novel we learn that Nicola is going to be murdered, and that this will involve the other two. as the novel progress we step inside their private lives and learn about their domestic problems (such as Guy's hyperactive and malicious little boy, Nicola's past ordeals & Keith’s sad council flat family life with the "angelic" baby Kim). This is all super interesting as Sam himself becomes a part of their life and an entrusted friend, not just an innocent bystander.
The problem with the story is that it starts being tedious at some point. We already "caught the drift", already learned all there is to learn, and the only thing left is to see how things fold with Nicola's manipulations, Guy's infatuation and Keith's dream to be a darts champion that will lift him from his pitiful life. oh, and to wait to see how and why Nicola gets murdered ... this is late to arrive and by the time the story reaches its climax, you are already so fatigue from the road - that it is not nearly as exciting as you'd imagine.
Another thing that is missing is the overall scene.. Earth is crumbling, the president's wife is dying, everything is messed up.. Yet we only have our imagination to try and help us with this story. What ordeal has left earth so crippled? i know it doesn’t REALLY matter, but would certainly love to know.
to sum things up, this is a good read - don’t get me wrong. the English is superb, the way Amis sets up the Londonian scene could not be any more accurate and thrilling. it's just that the story at some point loses momentum. you'd finish reading, but with a sense that if this would have been cut shorter by 100 pages or so, things would have been is much better.
on 8 February 2016
A few times I nearly gave up. The book can be laugh out loud one moment and exceedingly frustrating the next. The author goes off in so many tangents that sometimes it was hard for me to follow the actual story. I was always left with a nagging feeling that i had missed something important the author was trying to say.... like a social comment.... or a political critique.... or some very clever ambiguity.
I did get most layers of the book (i hope) and am glad i persevered but it isn't an easy read and it does take some time to decipher some passages.
The middle is a long drag and when it got to the finale (eventually), I picked up the pace, partly to get it over with but also partly to see what happens. In no way did i go Wow! at the end but it did make me think about it and wonder what other people thought about it and write a review and want to read a copy of 'Money' i have sitting on my shelf soon.
on 29 July 2012
Martin Amis occupies a unique position as being one of the most reviled and revered of contemporary British authors. London Fields demonstrates his singular skill as a master of metaphor and simile in this dark and sometimes amusing novel.
The reason London Fields fails for me is because of Amis' seeming inability to characterise. The central working-class character of Keith Talent is so one dimensionally evil and unredeemable that he's almost a twirly moustache short of being a panto villain. Even the choice of his name by Amis appears to be a very unsubtle pun on the concept of nominative determinism.
The character of Guy Clinch is upper-middle-class and therefore, naïve while the Nicola Six character is a femme-fatale in the fullest sense of the word. The main plot of the novel revolves around Six's elaborately contrived plan to manipulate the main male characters into the realisation of her murder. One suspects that in a London of any-era she would not have to resort to such intricate machinations to engineer her own end.
Amis narrates the entire novel through the character of Samson Young, a Jewish writer who has recently relocated from New York City. It is in the voicing of this character that Amis' really falters; the narrative style is more BBC than Brooklyn and sounds wholly inauthentic, especially when Young makes cultural references that would be altogether outside of his ken, such as describing people acting like `Blue Peter presenters'.
London Fields is the type of novel that could only have been written in the 1980's and is reminiscent of Bonfire of the Vanities in its use of an epic dystopian canvas to convey the darker nature of the modern cosmopolitan character. Set ten years in the future in 1999, it's an amusing aside to read of Guy Clinch's vast and complex efforts to find a working payphone in London when at the time cell-phones were very prevalent. As Samson Young might have said "Who knew?".