Monday, September 19, 2011

I have recommended this book to strangers (before now, I mean)

Few things make me feel more guilty, more instantly, than using the wishlist on the Amazon app on my iPhone to bookmark titles I'm looking at in a physical bookstore. Getting the book from the library later makes me feel less guilty; buying it from Amazon makes me feel more guilty. So following that logic, this book amounts to a mortal sin since I saw it in Open Books (a charity used bookstore) and then bought it for my Kindle using the wicked phone. Oh dear.

Worth it though.

An Evening of Long Goodbyes drew me in first with the title and then the cover art. I don't think I bothered to turn it over, because the following quotation was on the cover:
"If Nick Hornby and PG Wodehouse conspired to write a book while strolling through Chekhov's cherry orchard, this might be the result." -- The Wall Street Journal

Claiming that a book bears some resemblance to PG Wodehouse sets a pretty high bar, and I would say that An Evening of Long Goodbyes is the best possible result of such a comparison. The thing is that Murray's not trying to write the kind of goofy, fluffy entertainment that Wodehouse produced.

The book has two elements: a humorous and light-hearted part and a dark and tragic part. The first half of the book is less dark than the second, but both the bitter and the sweet are present all the way through. It has to do with the ways in which people try to cope with reality by avoiding it. The main character aspires to the kind of brainlessness usually reserved for Bertie Wooster's chums, but as the story progresses you not only see him raked over the coals for this, you also start to sympathize with him. I'm not describing this at all well, but Murray manages to make the book "uneven" in the best possible way.

When I first finished the book, my main reaction was "oh, so I'm done with this now"; then, about 15 minutes later I loved it. Two days later, I was in a Waterstones in London and saw a woman browsing the new books and looking at Murray's latest/second book, Skippy Dies and I actually interrupted her to awkwardly recommend An Evening of Long Goodbyes. And as if that weren't awkward enough I told her she might hate it. "Hello stranger, you really ought to read this random book that's not in front of us, although, on second thought you might hate it."

And so that is the message I send to you. Go read this book. You might hate it, but probably not (or not for long).


  1. I will! I will read this book! Also reply to my comments or I am done with you. ALSO how could you not buy it at Open Books?? How much could it have possibly been?

  2. Sorryyy!! I thought I answered the other one but maybe I just thought of what to write and didn't. I didn't buy it at Open Books because I was about to leave for Portsmouth and I only wanted to bring the kindle, so there.

  3. I love that. Recommend a book but warn them they might hate it. Classic :) P.s. Welcome to the blogging world!

  4. It always happens! Whenever someone says, "yeah that sounds great, I'll have to read it" I always immediately backtrack. "Wellll, maybe it's not so great, I mean..."

    Thank you!