Thomas is a journalist for Men's Health, and his editor suggests that since he's single, it would make for an interesting article if he tried to find a partner via an internet dating site. This book is the result of the following events.
This is an interesting idea for a book, although it's not particularly well told. Thomas describes his emailing and meeting up with the various girls he meets online. Because the book's preface says that the only thing which has been changed are the names, there's a certain rather unpleasant fascination in finding out how things turn out which each of the dates he makes.
The details of these meetings are interspersed with recollections of previous affairs and incidents in his life which he feels have been influential in shaping his character or motivations. Most of these are not, by his own admission, necessarily correct or particularly insightful - that the type of girlfriend a man has in his formative years will determine his taste in women for the rest of his life; that men are more prone to sexual deviance than women - and towards the end of the book I was skipping some of this stuff.
The book is sort of reminiscent of some of Tim Lott's writing, in that Thomas is not afraid to bare his emotions and confess how unpleasant and immoral men can be in their attitudes towards women, but unlike Lott, Thomas doesn't really write particularly well (learn the difference between imply and infer, can't you), and unlike Lott, he doesn't seem honestly to regret his own unpleasantness and immorality.
There is plenty of stuff in here that I think most people would be ashamed to admit to, if they'd done it, and I suppose it's to Thomas's credit that he feels able to 'fess up to stuff like having an affair with a Thai prostitute, leaving her to return to London, and then returning with a DNA kit when she has a baby which she claims is his. But underneath this it's hard not to feel there's something a bit self-serving about the whole book.
Even though it purports to be an honest account of what it feels like to be a man, I suspect that many of the episodes have been rendered in a form that make them more palatable to the individuals involved. With one possible exception, all the girls he talks about meeting are nice: he doesn't really have a cruel word for any of them; it's just that they don't "click". In fact, although through the book he sounds like he's being self-deprecating and assigns the blame to himself for when things go wrong, this comes across as a bit mechanical: as if by talking of himself in this way he can excuse this behaviour. Maybe I'm reading too much into it.
I know that after reading a Jonathan Coe book, I feel "what a super bloke he must be; I'd love to meet him and thank him for writing that". Although this was an interesting book to read, I didn't feel anything like that about Thomas. I don't fancy meeting him, or think it'll be worth reading any more of his books.
Completed : 12-May-2007