Serious Sweet Hardcover – 19 May 2016
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"Kennedy tenderly anatomised London and loneliness in Serious Sweet." (Ali Smith Guardian, Book of the Year)
"So beautiful that it makes your head hurt." (Katy Guest Independent)
"Serious Sweet is a magnificent novel, showing Kennedy at the very top of her game. Ambitious in scope, daring in execution, full of dazzling apercus and dark comedy… It is a tale of redemption, as serious and as sweet as you could wish for." (Rebecca Abrams Financial Times)
"In equal measures, funny, sad and addictive… The opening pages had me holding my breath in fear and anticipation… Capturing the relentless hustle of London life to perfection." (Glenda Marchant Stylist)
"A. L. Kennedy shakes her city until the right atoms collide. She stands back to give a picture of the whole of London on one day, and then suddenly swoops down to pick up a tiny detail." (Kate Saunders The Times)
"Deeply affecting... Kennedy strips her characters emotionally bare… Serious Sweet portrays intense lives of quiet desperation: it is a novel about hope and muted courage and, at the end of the day, a very tentatively experienced optimism." (Hannah Beckerman Observer)
"A. L. Kennedy's eighth novel is a profoundly moving, often funny, and at points rending depiction of two good people. Serious Sweet is about the heroism of decency; albeit damaged decency... Kennedy is not one of our finest writers simply because of the quality of her prose: she is because of the moral profundity of her work." (Stuart Kelly Scotsman)
"This is a bold, cinematic novel... Parts of it are terrifically funny." (Herald)
"A genuinely stirring love story." (Mail on Sunday)
"Her flair for describing feelings and relationships makes this an engaging window into the messy minds of Londoners and her commentary on the city rings true." (Susannah Butter Evening Standard)
"Determinedly and impressively intellectual… A novel of ideas that is deft enough never to be didactic because it asks more question than it answers." (Lara Feigel Guardian)
"This is an author with a proven ability to see – truly see – and whose prose can fire like gunshots across the page." (Rebecca Swirsky New Statesman)
"[Like] Sleepless in Seattle, respun by James Joyce, and set within a London on the precipice of Brexit." (Culture Trip)
"Her best book in years." (Justine Jordan Guardian)
"Uniquely moving love story." (Jess Denham Independent)
LONGLISTED FOR THE 2016 MAN BOOKER PRIZE
A Sunday Times Book of the Year
A topical London love story from the brilliant, prize-winning A. L. Kennedy
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Top customer reviews
The timeline is confusing. Everything supposedly takes place in the course of one day but there is so much remembering of past events by Jon and Meg, separated by short scenes of seeming unrelated people, at times I lost the will to read on. Why did I? Because it is AL Kennedy and I loved her edition of short stories, ‘All the Rage’, so I was prepared to stick with it. But the stop-start stream of consciousness thoughts were often boring and inexplicable. I missed and forgot multiple references. Either the author or publisher or both were not sure how to describe this book – politics (both Jon and Meg rant), self-help, alcoholism recovery, romance or a spy/thriller. I was almost expecting a terrorist bomb. The mystery actually hangs on whether Jon and Meg will meet. They do, finally [at 46% on my Kindle] meet by letter.
It is a long book, 528 pages, which could be so much shorter and tighter. There were moments of clever, beautiful description and thoughts which made me smile, some made me chuckle, but there were others which made my eyes skip to the next paragraph. I finally got it at around 75% and read the last quarter quickly.
Thanks to Net Galley for the ARC.
This is a book which effectively recounts twenty-four hours in the lives of two decent, flawed people in London. There is very little plot; it's about the nature of life in the city today and about the thoughts and character of the two protagonists. In many ways, it's very well done. Kennedy's depictions of aspects of modern life are acute, insightful and morally very necessary at the moment. Her characters are utterly believable, and her depiction of their internal monologues is remarkably well done as they deal with the minor and major trials and joys of the day and of their lives.
But, dear me, there's a lot of it! I felt about this rather as I did about John Banville's Ancient Light; wonderful writing, brilliant evocations of emotional states, memories and so on often through the depiction of the minutiae of life – and that 500 pages of it was just too much. The style which makes a 10-minute radio talk so brilliant begins to feel a bit like wading through treacle after a couple of hundred pages. Kennedy doesn't always judge it perfectly, either, I think. I marked two brief early passages:
"And there was the toy-box clutter of the City, a slapdash collection of unlikely forms or the vaguely art deco confections at canary Wharf and, dotted about, the distant filaments of cranes that would lift more empty peculiarities into the undefended sky" which thought was brilliant (and somewhat reminiscent of Mervyn Peake's opening descrition of Gormenghast Castle).
And then this, a few pages later:
"This was her equivalent of maybe passing warm pebbles from hand to hand, smooth and reliable, or her version of the rosary, her misbah, her mala, her kmboloi, her worry beads…" which made me think "OK, OK! I got the point at misbah!" I found the whole thing a mixture of the beautifully judged and the slightly overblown and it became quite a slog for me.
It comes down to this, I think: if you like A.L. Kennedy's style in large doses, you'll like this and if you don't, you won't. Personally I found it too much for too long, but you may well disagree; there's some very good stuff here and it may well be worth a try to see if it agrees better with you than it did with me.
(I received an ARC via Netgalley.)
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Most recent customer reviews
I'm afraid i didnt finish this one. Just found it too hard going. Lots of internal monologue that didnt make much sense.Read more
I just did not like the writing style.Read more
This is a beautiful book, full of pathos and humour.Read more