“Martin Lukes: Who Moved My Blackberry?” by Lucy Kellaway

When I worked for an insurance company, one of the few perks was having access to a free copy of the Financial Times. Not because of any of the business news, but because of the brilliant column from Lucy Kellaway. I had no idea she’s started writing novels, so when I came across this one in Waterstone’s, I just had to pick it up.

For anyone who works in an office this is a must read. Even as I sit here writing the review, I’ve got a huge grin on my face because this was a screamingly funny book, but a sometimes cringingly too close for comfort look at the politics of modern business.

A year in the life of Martin Lukes, a director at A-B Global (UK), this story is told purely from emails and text messages sent from the man himself. The reader gets occasional glimpses of company wide messages, but never gets to see responses to Martin’s mails, only the replies he sends, so you have to work out the other side of all the conversations, but it’s fairly obvious and actually adds to the enjoyment.

Office politics, work life balance and the aspirations of a man in full mid life crisis mode give so many opportunities for anyone who works in the modern business world to identify with someone in the story. It’s like a literary version of buzz word bingo!

I absolutely adored this book, and it did make me laugh out loud a lot, as well as sit grinning like a Chesire cat while reading. Kellaway has lost none of her observational or satirical skills since I last read her column, and I will be definitely be looking for more of her books.

“Devil In Disguise” by Julian Clary

Molly is a young singer/actress while Simon sees work as a means to an end, which is to earn enough money to be able to go out and get drunk, and the two of them been best friends since first meeting in college. While Molly is away with a touring theatre company, she stays in a boarding house run by the eccentric Lilia Delvard, whose fame and fortune days are long gone. It’s difficult to say much else about the plot without giving away too much of what will happen (I’ve even cut down the synopsis, as it gives away a little too much!).

Another fantastic piece of devlish humour from Julian Clary. I read his first novel earlier in the year, and when I saw this one in the bookshop I just couldn’t resist. It was wickedly funny, but with such a warmth for its characters, I found it unputdownable. I also lent it to a friend and he also devoured it in a single sitting, saying it was brilliantly funny and a total page turner.

It’s not perfect as I felt the denouement was a tiny, little rushed, but Clary certainly seems to have a flair for storytelling, and I will definitely be looking out for more!

A final comment as a Strictly Come Dancing fan – I loved the little mentions for the Strictly judges, particularly as the book was written when Julian was performing in the tour, but I can’t remember if it was a coincidence or whether he renamed the character of the landlady, but at the time he was partnering Lilia Kopylova, so I’m not sure if she should feel flattered or offended!

“Brooklyn” by Colm Tóibín

In a time of poor employment rates in 1950s Ireland, Eilis has already seen her brothers leave home to find work in England, and while her sister Rose has been lucky enough to find a good job and a fulfilling life at home, there doesn’t seem to be much chance of that for Eilis. So she leaves Ireland for the shores of America, a young girl making her way with the help of the church to the land of opportunity. In her new lodgings in Brooklyn, Eilis is homesick for Ireland but starts to build a new life, but news from home may soon change everything she has worked for.

What an absolutely wonderful book. This is the second Tóibín book I’ve read, and as with the first, the beauty of his writing captivated me throughout. He really seems to capture the essence of Eilis and her being seems like a very real person. An affecting portrayal of the young woman and what struck me was how you completely understood how Eilis was feeling all the time, but he managed to keep a slight distance to of all the other characters. This is exactly how we all as individuals truly are around all other people – we can never know exactly how they feel or think, no matter how close we are to them. Having said that, there was enough description of all the other characters that you were led to believe what sort of person they were, and what their motives for their actions were at any time.

One of my favourite reads of the year, and I will be looking for more to read from this author in the future.

“Three Men on the Bummel” by Jerome K. Jerome

A sequel to Three Men in a Boat, this book follows our eponymous heroes who are now older and, supposedly, wiser, on a holiday to Germany. I loved Three Men In A Boat when I read it earlier in the year, and wasn’t expecting this sequel to be as good. In fact, I thought it was by far the more entertaining book.

This seemed much more like a novel than the first book, where the author had tried to include local history in to the narrative. The three men are now older and decide to take a bicycle ride through Germany, and this time we get their side of the story about how they get on together (or don’t) as well as the various escapades they find themselves in along the way of their journey. We learn about the family life (now two of them are married with children) and get a glimpse of to society of the times through their eyes.

It was funny! I smiled almost all the way through – there’s something about the contemporary language of that era that makes me chuckle anyway, but knowing it was written in that period makes it feel even more real and authentic, and gives it an extra level of humour.

The only thing I didn’t like about the book was the final chapter. After having seemingly made a very definite decision to make this the story of the three men, the conclusion is an essay on the modern Germany of the time, which was dry and felt a let down after a very funny, very charming story of three friends.

Apart from that it was very, very entertaining and great fun.
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