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So confident was he that one day he would be famous Jimmy Conway wrote himself a series of pompous letters reminding himself how to behave once he had great wealth and fame. The thing is life did not turn out quite how he expected and on the eve of his 35th birthday he is sat in the pub, single, teaching English and having to listen to his brother read out these letters gto his friends. Amidst their laughter and ridicule he must reflect on a life that has passed him by with his stuck in a dreary seaside town.
The story actually starts in the future with Jimmy about to do his famous stand up routine in front of a live TV audience and the story goes back in time to fill in the gaps between his humiliation in the pub and his impending big moment. However things are not quite what they seem.
This must be one of the most hilarious books I have ever read, it has some real laugh out loud moments in it. Jimmy Conway is a superb character and he is surrounded by an odd assortment of friends. O Farrell is a top quality comedy writer and his skills transfer well to a book, the story moves along at a fast pace and the plot is well executed.
The characters have real depth and it is one of those books that I found really hard to put down once I started to read it as the story just sucks you in and while Jimmy is a bit of a pathetic self centred character you still find yourself rooting for him.
A good read and highly recommended.
Lots of people keep a diary in their early years only to discover it years later and cringe with embarrassment when they read their juvenile ramblings; well for Jimmy Conway things were a little different. So confident was he as a youngster that he would grow up to be incredibly famous and wealthy that he wrote himself a series of letters imparting words of wisdom on how he should handle his fame. So confident was he in fact that one of the letters focused solely on how he should handle himself when the big red book is thrust in front of his face and the well known words Jimmy Conway this is your life are spoken.
The problem is that sat in the pub with his weird collection of friends on the evening of his 35th birthday Jimmy Conway is far from famous, in fact he is single, a part time teacher of English as a foreign language to students in the quiet, very windy seaside town of Seaford. To make matters worse it was not Jimmy who rediscovered the letters but his older more successful brother who was taking great delight in reading them out to his friends much to Jimmys embarrassment.
This is one of those stories which actually begins ahead of itself and what you actually get is pretty much the ending of the story and this sees Jimmy Conway about to go on stage in front of thousands and a TV audience of millions and deliver his famous award winning stand up routine. The problem is Jimmy has never performed comedy before in his life and the rest of the story takes you on a journey with Jimmy as he gets the fame that his letters were to prepare him for. The story then switches to the scene in the pub as a means to start the ball rolling.
This is a very funny story with some real laugh out loud moments and if a book can make me laugh out loud whilst sat in a café then it must be getting something very right. I have read a few books that have adopted this style of giving you an idea of the outcome and then detailing the events leading up to it and I must say that in most cases it does work especially as the reader still has the enjoyment of finding out what actually happens while all the time knowing that there will also be some kind of extension to the story to show how the events turn out in the end.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants to have an enjoyable light hearted funny read from a top quality comedy writer and the book has a number of strengths and great variety in the way that it uses humour throughout the storyline.
One of it greatest strengths is the range of characters that are developed in the book and the different qualities they bring to the story. Old Jimmy is actually quite a funny character and the story is told entirely from his viewpoint and his take on life is a rather fatalistic one with a nice line in pathos. Despite his non existent stand up talents as I read the book he actually comes out with some good comedy material he just does not have the ability to recognise it instead coming up with some pretty awful material which he tries out at the most inappropriate times. Young Jimmy is equally funny in a very different way as his letters form the start of each chapter of the book and portray a funny naivety and certainly seem as though they have been written by a 13 year old who has no real experience of life, throughout the letters the recurring theme of out shining his older brother and starting his history project and his failure to do either give an idea of what is lacking in Jimmy character to ever be the success he desires. As a character Jimmy is very likeable and here is a feeling of empathy that is built up for him throughout the story, this is really helped by the fact that all the time the reader knows that at the end of the book he has to walk out on stage in front of all of those people and the sense of dread is something that 99.5% of the population could relate to (by my reckoning 0.5% of the population is made up of people who do stand up).
There is real depth in strength with the other characters in the book; the random ramblings of Jimmy mother are very cleverly constructed as are the episodes where the thoughts of Jimmy Border collie are told. Jimmy has a varied array of friends who are the usual bunch of aimless regulars in his local pub and the banter amongst them works well and there is a familiarity about the characters which had me feeling like I had met them before.
There have been a number of books recently in particular from Ben Elton which attack the concept of fame and celebrity and show it in a bad light and this book carries on such a theme but does it in a more subtle way as it is told through the eyes of someone who has always wanted to be famous and through a quirk of fate finds himself being hailed as a success when the whole thing is built upon a little white lie that snowballs. It is a clever concept and one that fits nicely with the current time period where fame can be obtained through a reality programme of sleeping with the right person. This book does a clever job of sending up the whole cult of celebrity but in a subtle way that no portrays the ridiculous but also shows the shallow nature of the whole cult of fame.
This was the first book I had read from author John OFarrell who was the author of The Best a Man Can Get and May Contain Nuts which was actually the book I was intending to buy but I must have hit the wrong button on Amazon as this one arrived. O Farrell has a good comedy pedigree having been a writer on Spitting Image, Have I Got News for You and Chicken Run as well as writing a regular column in the Guardian. Certainly I will be reading more of his work soon.
Published by Transworld Publishers the rrp is a rather large £10.99 on my copy however it can be purchased from Amazon for a far more reasonable £5.59 new or from a penny in the new and used section.
Thanks for reading and rating what actually turns out to be my 200th review on Dooyoo.
A compelling and very funny novel about how we define 'success'