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This is a review of the 2002 book, 'Thingsmy girlfriend and I have argued about' by Mil Millington. The book itself is fairly amusing with some comic content and seems to mainly focus on Pel's relationship with his German girlfriend Ursula.
A bit misleading
The book suggests a youngish couple when in fact they are fairly established with two young boys and two houses to their names.
A massive part of the book is dedicated to the sideline of Pel's work. He works in a university library, climbing the career ladder seemingly with no qualifications but plenty of bluff.
What a mess
The Pel character slides from one mess to another, going home to yet another argument with his girlfriend.
I must admit I was sniggering quite a lot when I read this book. My favourite bit is when Pel runs through the rain with a child's umbrella and not looking where he's going, falls into the freshly dug foundations of the new university wing. He is offered a rubber overall suit to wear by the builders as his suit is a muddy mess, then summonsed in to a meeting he can't say no to complete in his day glo borrowed outfit. Complete madness. But very funny too.
Some of the chapters are just foolish. And don't add much to the story like the couple's skiing trip. I am not sure why this warranted a few pages in the book as it did not really establish anything other than an opportunity to argue on the slopes about who was the better at skiing between the two. For me, the main difference between them seemed cultural and based on Ursula's German bluntness rather than a good old ding dong.
Other than the fact that it made me laugh, I really can't recommend this book if you want a story with a beginning, middle and ending. This one just didn't have the structure for that. I don't know if I wanted more or if I just wish I had abandoned reading early on in the book. There were lots of throwaway lines that could have been funny but there wasn't enough to go on. The characters in the book that worked with Pel just seemed pathetic and sad and not really very interesting or developed enough to make me care about them. Even touching on the kids had potential that was not really fully explored... they just got shipped off to the grandparent's house to make it easier for the author to write his book I think!
I didn't mind the book but just found some bits were not helpful in making the book complete. Pel's lunchtime buddies, for example; Roo and Tracey. I just didn't get them at all and they didn't really help to make more of the storyline really.
I bought this book for £2 from Tesco in their book sale and I have to say that I am glad I didn't pay full price for it! I bought it for some light holiday reading, which I suppose it was but it did struggle to hold my attention. I had high hopes due to the praise of the hilarity of it all and quite enjoyed Millington's Guardian writing. But for me it really didn't make the cut.
The story is about Pel, an Englishman who gets caught up in the politics and pitfalls of his "promotions" and how he winds up in a rather tricky situation with a Chinese gang. Pel lives with his German girlfriend, Ursula, who is rather to the point and hasn't quite mastered the intricacies of English etiquette. She wants to move from the area they are in because it's unsafe and there are appearances of their arguments based upon this.
The main reason I picked this book was because I expected from the title and blurb for it to be more about the relationship between Pel and Ursula and be a humorous account of the difficulties of they faced with their cultural differences. Instead it mostly focuses on Pel and mostly portrays Ursula as a side line to the main plot, which revolves around his job. Ursula makes the odd nagging appearance and even then I found it mundane. I found myself skim reading the book just to get to the end of it and I can't really say that the ending was worth the effort.
It was easy reading and there were parts that I found very funny but I just wish that the book had been more towards what the title suggested and that he had tried less to be constantly funny and moved the plot along a little faster. I thought I would relate to this book having been in a German/English relationship but I just couldn't and felt it was an exagerrated steriotype. I also couldn't connect to any of the characters. I found Pel sloppy and at times arrogant and his friends made such fleeting appearances, I couldn't get used to any of them.
However this is just my opinion and a few others who I passed this on to really enjoyed it. Maybe I am just too defensive of the Germans!
Once upon a time, there were books. You bought them in bookshops. Then there was the internet. After this, there were websites from which you could buy books. Then, as websites started to become more popular and almost as a natural progression, there were websites that decided to release books or release their content in book form.
The Darwin Awards was possibly the first of these, a fun website that became a fun book (and, so far, three fun books), which werent terribly readable in the normal way. More recently, Belle De Jours Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl made it from weblog to hardback.
Somewhere in the middle of these two was Mil Millingtons Things my Girlfriend and I Have Argued About. This took a different approach to the two books previously mentioned. Belle De Jours book was published first as an internet diary and was published as a diary in book form. The Darwin Awards was a site full of snippets of stories and was published as a book full of little snippets. The original Things my Girlfriend and I Have Argued About, however, was a website with funny snippets on it that have been shoehorned into a novel.
Pel Dalton lives somewhere in the North East with his German girlfriend Ursula and their two children. He works as the Supervisor for the Computer Team in the Learning Centre of the University of North-Eastern England. To all appearances, it sounds like a pretty normal life.
Indeed, it would be a pretty normal life, were it not for two important factors. The first is Pels boss, TSR, who decides to do a rather rapid vanishing act, leaving Pel to pick up the pieces. The other is Ursula, the girlfriend of the books title. Indeed, the title should give some idea as to their relationship, which revolves around disagreeing on a lot of things. Not just on the big things, either, like whether or not to buy a new house, but on the little things, like video games and the whereabouts of the car keys.
The problem with this book is that what worked so very well in short funny pieces simply doesnt lend itself to being a novel. In writing this book, Millington has changed the whole structure of what was a very funny idea to fit the medium and it simply doesnt work. This isnt to say that there arent some very funny parts in the novel rather worrying, the bit I laughed loudest at was an argument involving his penis but the way it is all put together doesnt work for me.
Im a big fan of funny things. With a reflection like mine staring back at me from the mirror every morning, I have to be. But what I object to is when things leave funny behind and start becoming ridiculous. Sadly, thats what many parts of this novel are. To get so many amusing arguments out of a relatively mundane existence, some strange things have to happen with alarming regularity to ensure these arguments get started. Sadly, many of these things have to be totally ridiculous to get to that point.
With many novels, especially comedy style ones, there has to be some suspension of disbelief. Frequently, you can achieve that and enjoy whats going on. With Millingtons book, its a problem largely because hes setting his life as being pretty normal within the first couple of chapters, albeit with amusing events. But just when youve started to believe youre possibly reading a gently humorous bloke-lit kind of novel, things start getting a little strange and the whole book takes a turn in the direction of being very silly.
However, even I, who objects to this kind of behaviour, found myself laughing frequently during the course of this book, nearly as much as I shook my head and thought how stupid a certain situation was. That might only be a 50% hit rate, but Ive read and watched supposed comedies that have made me laugh less than this did. For all the rather shoddy window dressing this is a funny book, even if the website is a lot funnier, but it still provides entertainment and enjoyment. I found it infuriating as well as amusing, but thats not to say that you wont find it very funny and have to carry a spare set of underwear around with you while you read, just in case.
This can be a very funny book, but it can also be a very silly book. If you can deal with funny and silly all wrapped up together, youll probably love this, especially at £6.39 from Amazon, £5.99 from Play.com and £3.75 from Green Metropolis. If youre a fan of funny and less so of silly, then you might still be amused with this, especially if you pay from only 50p from eBay or from 1p at the Amazon Marketplace. At least that way, if you dont enjoy the book, you can be amused by knowing you didnt pay as much for it as others have.
If you have no sense of humour at all, just go and have your own argument with your own girlfriend and leave the funny arguments to Mil Millington and people whod appreciate them.
This book started off as a web site (http://www.thingsmygirlfriendandihavearguedabout.com/) on which Mil Millington lists the various arguments he and his partner Margret have had over some of the strangest things. It's hilariously funny and it's given me loads of entertainment. He's also written a weekly column for the Guardian, which I admit I've never read. One day recently, I went back to the site to find that he'd written a book loosely based on the web site. Seeing as the website was so funny, I ordered the book from Amazon (in their logic-crumpling 3 books for £12 offer or each book at £3.99). In this book, Pel Dalton works at a university library doing an I.T. job he knows very little about and is continually bluffing his way around. He lives with his German partner, Ursula and their two sons Peter and Jonathan. Arriving into work one day, he finds out that his boss, Terry Steven Russell (or TSR) has simply disappeared with a large sum of money. Thus begins Pel's troubles as he's forced to take on TSR's duties and deal with the students, incredibly long acronyms, other staff members, some dodgy looking Oriental gentlemen and not forgetting the builders who are meant to be building an extension to the library. Of course, these are the least of his problems as his partner, Ursula, has decided that after their house has been robbed, they're moving. As seems to be the norm with Ursula, she's only the decision maker and it's up to Pel to do the actual donkey work on top of his increasing duties at the university library. The author, Mil Millington, does quite well here. He manages to put across Pel's increasing stress quite well despite the fact that there were times Pel did something I thought was simply ludicrous. The writing is very witty, and I found there were a few laugh out loud moments in the book (mostly down to his 'discussions' with Ursula rather than plot related). The
characterisation is excellent, although part of me wonders if that's because Millington is a good writer or whether that's down to the main characters in the book (i.e. Pel's family) being closely based on Millington's own family. The actual plot is a bit thin on the ground, and simply acts as a tool to send Pel from one stress increasing moment at the university to another, or from one argument with Ursula to another. Where I have real trouble though is the ending. The book simply stops just when I really started to get interested in the whole thing. There's no warning or anything (except for the fact you know that the pages are getting thin!) and I must admit I was quite angry to suddenly find the book finished where it did. Overall, I find this book hard to recommend to other people. It is strange, because I enjoyed reading it at the time, but I thought that the ending basically ruined the rest of the book. The website is just as funny, if not funnier, and the bonus is that it's free. Go on, save yourself £3.99 (or £4 if you're "saving" money at Amazon!)
If you have a bit of time to spare you might like to check out www.mil-millington.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/things.html - this is the new website of Things my girlfriend and I have argued about, exclusively revealed to readers of the authors news letter. 'Things' is a bit of a cult website you see. Honestly can't remember how I found it but I definitely remembered laughing a lot when I did. Writer Mil Millington has a German girlfriend called Margret (from the German M'Arg et meaning 'to be dangerously insane' according to the website) with whom he lives together with their two small children. They argue about absolutely everything. This website is his chronicle of the things that they have argued about. It is very funny. Go and read it. But not until you have finished reading this op or you'll miss the point. This op is not about the website - its about the book which is based on the website. A bit anyway. Things my girlfriend and I have argued about (the book, not the website anymore - do try to keep up) is the story of the hapless Pel Dalton, boyfriend, father and acting CTASATM (which quite obviously stand for Computer Team Administration Software Acquisition and Training Manager). As far as I can tell, the bits relating to his anything but blissful domestic existence are either events in the life of the author or based on events in his life. The CTASATM bits are most probably the product of his imagination but the boundary is a little blurred in places. Mil works in a University library. When his immediate boss leaves, he is promoted to the post of acting CTASATM. In taking on that mantle he inadvertently finds himself having to organise payoffs to Chinese triads, cover up the removal of human remains and avoid an enquiry which would discover enough nerve gas to kill everyone in Western Europe. Throughout Dalton's colleagues relate to all these as though they were run of the mill events whilst he strugg
les to deal with the concepts. On top of the inconveniences posed by this new job, Dalton has to negotiate a family life in which he is destined never to have the last word or win an argument. The dialogue throughout is snappy, consistently funny and will have you laughing away, clutching your forehead in amazement or nodding in agreement if you have ever found yourself on the wrong side of a woman like Ursula. The mixture of an extremely amusing home life, the bizarre goings on at the office and some excellent characters make this really good quality light reading. It certainly has an excellent chuckle ratio and as a quick peak at Amazon reveals that you can pick it up for 3.99 I would suggest that you treat yourselves. And now that I'm finished you can go and check out the website too!