A bit of a cross between "High Fidelity", "Man and Boy" and "The Best a Man Can Get", this is the story of Daniel Savage, who's had a successful career in advertising, but feels his romantic life has been a mess. As his divorce following a year's separation from his wife becomes final, he revisits all his past love affairs in an attempt to work out what went wrong, and decide what are the love secrets which can guide how he should cope with women.
Although this book shares some of the same perspectives as the three mentioned earlier, with Daniel agonising over the fact that men can be selfish and uncaring, what's refreshing here is that he thinks that women are just as bad. On his parents' relationship: "Dad took Thoroughfare Number One in the relationship maze a long time ago, the route signposted Complete Obedience. It's the eventual strategy of choice for about ninety percent of males, as far as I can make out". And unlike Hornby et al, it doesn't feel that he's being ironic.
There is quite a bitter feel to some parts of the book. In one scene a woman says that she regards men and women as equal; Daniel then asks if there are any things that women are better at. She reels off a long list, "better at nurturing", "more capable of love", "better at multi-tasking", etc.. Then he asks what men are better at, is met with silence, and says "I think I've made my point about the female definition of equality."
But it's not all dark: a lot of the book is concerned with Daniel's trying to understand how he can capture and preserve the intense happiness of a fulfilling relationship.
The only niggle I had was that the book had a happy(ish) ending: I was half-hoping that he'd sustain the misogyny all the way. But I'll forgive him, since the the epilogue about Carol Moon made up for it.
So, very funny, and very readable in a Hornby-ish way. Definitely one to be read again, and also it will be worth reading his other books.
Read this again in 2011. I'd always remembered this as being one I'd want to read again, so got a second-hand copy and did so.
I think I'd forgotten just how bitter and raw this book was. It feels like he must have written it in the aftermath of his divorce, when he was feeling pretty hostile to his ex-wife (or maybe he's just got a really good imagination).
Agree with comments earlier that the happy ending felt wrong. But the Carol Moon thing was perfect (I'd forgotten this until I read it, and was reading it thinking "I hope he doesn't muck up Carol Moon" - and he didn't).
Probably wouldn't bother reading it again though.
Completed : 03-May-2004
Completed : 14-Aug-2011