“ Author: Matt Thorne „
There is a sense of smugness that seems to populate modern lad-lit novels set in London. I have read several books in the genre and they all seem to have central characters you would rather push onto the tracks at Elephant & Castle than read about. All the characters in these books also seem to work in the media in someway, be it TV, newspapers or radio. I get the feeling that there is a clique of unsatisfied journalists sitting at their desks believing that they have a novel in them. It was with some reluctance then that I picked up Matt Thornes Dreaming of Strangers as it seemed to tick all the above boxes, but was based around a couple who love film (like I do). As you can see from the score I gave it, perhaps I should finally stop reading lad lit.
Chris Paley is a London type film reviewer who rents a flat on the fact that the landlord has a good taste in movie posters. The landlord turns out to be a landlady called Becca who becomes intrigued by a man that may love films as much as she does. Rather than contact Chris directly Becca uses friends to try and discover more about him. At the same time Chris is doing the same thing to learn about Becca. Will these two star crossed lovers actually meet, or will just manage to avoid each other?
London seems to be the setting for 100s of lad-lit books about groups of people who do not seem to exist outside the metropolis. As someone that has never lived in the city I find that the way authors like Thorne write is an instant barrier to the reader. These city folk seem to spend their existence slagging off their jobs and sleeping with each other. I know that sounds pretty appealing, but to read about it only makes you a bit jealous! Thorne would have been better served to try and make this book appeal to a wider audience than those sat on the tube.
Another problem area with the book is that the characters are not actually that likeable. I am not a huge fan of cheating on a partner so to base a book on people doing just this means I may not enjoy it as much as some. What galls me the most about it is not the fact that cheating is taking place, but that Thorne has decided that it has become such a part of everyday life that he does not need to explain the characters motives more than they feel like cheating. Chris character holds up slightly better than Beccys as we get to know a bit more about what is going on inside his head. Beccy just seems a bit flighty and lazy.
Another issue with the book is that it if far too short to actually get anywhere. This is probably why the main characters are so underdeveloped. The book contains approx 300 pages, but many of them are chapter ends or blank. The book ended up being one of the most linear experiences I have had as Thorne did not have enough space in his book to actually write anything of interest.
To try and spice the dull narrative up Thorne has added some interesting, if not unique, story techniques. Stolen from the likes of Hornby or Gayle, Thorne has added pieces in-between the chapters that try to flesh out the reasons why Beccy and Chris may be drawn together. Chris sections see him listing some of his favourite films and why they are on his list. This helps us to understand the importance of film to him and to find a relationship with someone who feels the same way. Beccys sections see her go through her past relationships and explain why they ended; this gives us an insight into why she is drawn to certain men. Although a nice aside these sections do not actually add anything to the story and in fact take up vital space that was needed for Thorne to develop the story. All these sections did was highlight the gulf of talent between lad-lit wanabes and established authors in the genre.
Like most of these books that look at relationships the author has failed to make likeable characters. Beccy and Chris spend far too much of their lives naval gazing rather than dealing with their problems; you want to smack them on the side of the head half the time. The reference to interesting films throughout was fun as I am a cinephile and this made it better than the dreaded one star - just. However, a book about pretentious, self interested saddos is not going to make me want to read anything else by the author. Not only are the characters unlikeable, they are also underdeveloped due to the slight nature of the book. Stick to the likes of Mike Gayle or Nick Hornby if you must delve into this genre.
Author: Matt Thorne
Price: amazon uk - £6.99
play.com - £5.49