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A Middle Class Beach Read
on 28 December 2011
For a writer of Blake Morrison's stature, this seems a curiously lightweight novel - airport fiction for the middle classes. The scenario is familiar enough: a group of forty-somethings spend a weekend together at a cottage in rural Norfolk. At first, they seem set to enjoy their reunion, but as the weekend progresses, old rivalries and passions begin to rise to the surface.
For me there were too many cliches, particularly the rivalry between the narrator - a primary school teacher from northern England - and his old university friend, a rich London lawyer who is irritatingly successful with women and good at sports. After a particularly tedious account of a game of golf between the two men, I almost abandoned the book, but kept finding myself reading one more chapter, just to find out what happened next.
Then, about a third of the way into the novel, the tone became darker and the narrator no longer seemed entirely credible, or likeable. At that point I started to become more engaged with the narrative and found it increasingly compelling. I read the second half of 'The Last Weekend' in a single sitting.
Overall, I'd say that this is a good holiday read and it's worth sticking with the unpromising beginning, as the narrative becomes genuinely gripping as it progresses, but as a serious work of fiction, it's rather flawed and isn't up to the high standards that Morrison has achieved in his non-fiction.