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3.8 out of 5 stars39
3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 6 May 2013
The long, hot summer of 1989 is a perfect backdrop for this thought- provoking novel. Scottish Struan, pale and innocent, comes to London to tend to the ailing formerly iconic author Philip Prys. (Seemingly as nobody else really feels able to for a myriad of reasons. ) Mr Prys is in some ways the central character and we are treated to the thoughts, feelings and emotions of this character whom I felt exceptionally ambivalent towards; he was quite clearly a complete prig, yet in his internal prison it was difficult to not feel waves of sympathy for him. The back story was cleverly interwoven with current events and reminders of the 1989 backdrop. Today's bank holiday heat really ensured that the story came to life!

Most of all the character of struan engaged me. Arriving and remaining permanently hungry in his C&A jeans, caring for these strangers thereby embodying the humanity which so many if the other characters in their selfishness and preoccupations could not show to their own relative.

The novel addressed lots of issues and was constantly surprising . A different, interesting read. The characters felt gritty with genuine human flaws. Struan was a modern day Heathcliffe, a real hero. Juliet, skittish and self obsessed . Mfanwy surprising in her depth and instrumental in the unexpected ending.
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on 28 December 2014
Quirky and funny. Interesting characters and an unusual story line. A young Scottish guy, a dysfunctional English family and some very strange friends of the family. I really liked it!
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on 18 January 2014
This was not what I expected. The irony of the title- I don't think that anyone actually is English-is rather good. Subtle humour, sharp comment and a satisfactory outcome- all good.
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on 30 July 2013
I purchased this book after reading a review in the newspaper and I found I enjoyed it. Books don't always live up to their reviews but I found this one did.
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on 8 November 2015
Funny witty nostalgic with charm and at times beautiful poetic description. I enjoyed every twist and turn. Read it slowly if you can
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on 16 March 2015
I like it very much. It has a funny cultural depiction of English society. You should read it, you'll love it
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 4 January 2014
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Clanchy is a very good writer: her prose is snappy, sharp, acutely observational, wry and sometimes savagely funny - but the novel isn't the right form or medium for her style of wit. This style of writing works wonderfully well in short stories, comment pieces and serial columns, but it just bogs a novel down.

The characters, as other reviewers have pointed out, tend to the usual clichés of the Hampstead literati, though Clanchy does humanise them. And Struan, our dour Scot experiencing London for the first time, is just adorable.

So there are lots of little gems in this, some moving, some hilarious, some which skewer social pretentions effortlessly - but as a novel this ends up being less than the sum of its parts.

I'd definitely read Clanchy again but, like the great Dorothy Parker, the novel form isn't right for her brand of wit and writing.
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on 12 December 2013
This is an apparently old-fashioned novel, switching among the characters so each in turn becomes the focus from which the others are observed. Apparently, because most of their takes on the reality around them are shudderingly flawed, and often downright nasty. Then the penny drops - this is more Christina Stead than Virginia Woolf, and is largely satire on human horribleness.

What's very brilliant is the account of a group of self-absorbed people gathered because the one with the money is ill and probably dying, and is no saint. This predictably brings out the worst. His first wife - grasping Myfanwy - is the most hellishly creepy, and the fact that there's satire doesn't diminish her vileness, which is shudderingly horrible. Her teenage children aren't very much better. It's the mix of greed with triviality and self-aggrandisement that gave me the shudders.

The dialogue is super, the decency of the Scottish boy is convincing and well-sustained, and you're left to wonder is the picture of the few Hampstead characters that he encounters for a long hot summer truly is representative of "the English". That it's even possible to wonder is in itself chilling.

There's some sweetness to the ending, but it doesn't even attempt to counter the sheer horribleness that's been the bedrock all of the way to it. Wittiness in the dialogue and nastiness in the relationships. Quite a cocktail. Expect to feel more nervous about the world when you've finished it.
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VINE VOICEon 17 April 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Not for me.
"Literary Giant seeks young man to push bathchair. Own room in Hampstead, all found, exciting cultural milieu. Modest wage. Ideal 'gap year' opportunity. Apply Prys Box 4224XXC."
This advertisement attracts the attention of Struan Robertson, orphan, genius, and just seventeen, and he travels from his home town of Cuik in Scotland to London. There he finds His job is to care for Phillip, paralysed by a massive stroke, because, though two teenage children, two wives, and a literary agent all live round Phillip's large house, they are each too busy with their peculiar obsessions to do it themselves.
The book is set in the summer of 1989, although I can't think why, except perhaps that it was very hot that year.
It's a bright book about dark subjects, a tale about kindness and its limits, told with love. It has witty dialogue, and interesting characters. Kate Clanchy is an acclaimed writer of poetry, non-fiction, and short stories and this is her debut novel.
Well written indeed, but not to my taste.
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on 23 May 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A funny, slightly glib novel - a good summer read (I say this despite the unseasonal rain... sigh...). I did enjoy this book, though not as much as I enjoyed Kate Clanchy's more serious previous offering, Antigona and Me.

Engaging and comic, but sometimes a little over-written and heavy on stereotypes.
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