This is a thoroughly depressing view of life for an ex-pat in China - I would love to visit China but, if this book is anything to go by, life for a westerner in Shanghai is horrible. At first, I found myself really angry with the main character and wanted him to stop to think before he did anything - which I felt was what the author wanted. I then realised that the reason the character appeared not to be pausing for thought was that the whole plot was disjointed and seemed to miss out big chunks of the story which would have helped to explain why events evolved in the way they did. Also, I struggled to find any empathy towards any of the characters although they were, at times, well written.
I've been a fan of Parsons writing for a long time and, most of, his books are highly enjoyable from start to finish, so i set about this long awaited latest offering full of zeal and enthusiasm. It wasn't long before my heart sank. It feels like i've been invited to a good friends house only to be forced to watch an endless slide show of far eastern delights. There really is no story to speak of, just continued references to Shanghai's social political and cultural idiosyncrasies. When you get back from your holiday Tony, concentrate on writing a decent plot, please.
This novel has a very downbeat feel to it and is quite a depressing read. It's as though Tony Parsons has seized a random bunch of expat cliches/moral observations about china and shoved them all willy-nilly into a quite disjointed storyline which skims the surface and never really does justice to any of them. He's also achieved the rare feat of creating a story which contains NO likeable (or particularly believable) characters at all. I plodded to the end without much enjoyment, glad to see the back of all the sad protagonists. Stick to his other novels.
It started well and I was looking forward to enjoying the book in the same way I have other Tony Parsons' books but it soon went downhill. I'm not sure if it was the unlikeable characters - personally I thought Bill deserved all the heartache he got and I didn't feel anything for either of the women who I felt were poorly drawn, the interminable China narrative or the plot which got increasingly unbelievable. You're asking me to believe he'd risk life and limb, as well as the risk of dengue fever, to return a set of keys and tell her it was over? His wife would have been long gone. And there was no real plot development to explain his sudden change of principles at the end. I'd be interested if a male perspective on this would be more sympathetic or whether Bill just was a really unpleasant man. I read it to the end to see if it would finish on a high. It didn't. Don't waste your time on this drivel.