Meeting the English

Kate Clanchy

2014 Nominee

Costa First Novel Award

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19 June 2014
320 pages

Shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award
Longlisted for the Desmond Elliot Prize
'Richly conceived, original and very entertaining' – Guardian
'Exceptional . . . a delectable read' – Daily Mail

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.

'It's only England,' said Mr Fox, 'just a few hours on the train. You can always come home.'

'Ah've never been though,' said Struan, 'never been South.'

'Then you should,' said Mr Fox, 'you really should.'

So it is that Struan Robertson, orphan, genius, and just seventeen, leaves his dour native town of Cuik, and arrives in London in the freakish fine summer of 1989. His job, he finds, is to care for Phillip, dumbfounded and paralysed by a massive stroke, because, though two teenage children, two wives, and a literary agent all rattle round Phillip's large house, they are each too busy with their peculiar obsessions to do it themselves. As the city bakes, Struan finds himself tangled in a midsummer's dream of mistaken identity, giddying property prices, wild swimming, and overwhelming passions. For everyone, it is to be a life-changing summer.

This is a bright book about dark subjects: a tale about kindness and its limits, told with love. Spiked with witty dialogue, and jostling with gleeful, zesty characters, it is a glorious debut novel from an acclaimed writer of poetry, non-fiction, and short stories.

‘With wit and zest, Clanchy creates social comedy out of teeth-clenching situations . . . Clanchy’s trenchant, often very funny prose also shimmers with sensual pleasures . . . Meeting the English is a richly conceived, original and very entertaining novel.’ Guardian

‘A comedy of manners with a sharp edge . . . With its cast of artsy, highly strung, badly behaved north Londoners, Meeting the English feels like an updated Iris Murdoch novel, with sharper haircuts and more Laura Ashley furnishings.’ Independent on Sunday

‘A charming comic novel with an appealing lightness of touch’ Literary Review