New British Fiction

"One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things."  --Henry Miller

A Surrey State of Affairs, the first novel by journalist, Ceri Radford (who writes TV reviews and cultural features for the British newspaper, the Telegraph), takes place in (where else?) Surrey, England.  It is a more recent incarnation of the epistolary novel—a novel in blog form.

Middle-aged and with a penchant for Maeve Binchy, bell ringing and parrots, our heroine, Constance, tells us about her travails dealing with her husband, Jeffrey (who has his eye on the maid), her daughter, Sophie (who is looking for some adventure before starting college), and her son, Rupert (who just can’t seem to bring home a proper girlfriend).

The scenes when Constance’s daughter, Sophie, competes on a Gothic-themed reality show are a real crack-up!  When a young fan dresses like Sophie and pierces her tongue in imitation, Constance tells us, “I always wanted my daughter to be a role model, but this wasn’t quite what I had envisaged.”  At times while reading, I couldn’t help but think of Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet, of course) from Keeping Up Appearances.

Constance copes with day-to-day life in Surrey, but it’s only when she goes on a spur-of-the-moment trip to South America that she has the opportunity to stand back, take a good look at her life and decide (literally and figuratively) exactly where she wants to go from here.  She faces challenges she wouldn’t have faced in her quiet, British life and she comes out stronger.  Radford’s tongue-in-cheek prose is at its best when Constance tells us, “We’re in Lima.  I have walked the Inca trail, and encountered French-style lavatories, and survived both challenges.” 

Like many a British novel, this book ends with a wedding.  Whose wedding?  You’ll just have to read it to find out.


Anonymous said...

"Keeping Up Appearances" is one of my favorite television shows! Just hearing that this book reminds you of Hyacinth makes me want to read it right away.

MS said...

Anonymous: If you do read it, let us know what you think. :)