Obstacles to Young Love, by David Nobbs

In 1978 Timothy and Naomi, stars of their school's Romeo and Juliet production, sneak off for a weekend in a hotel in London to consummate their love. But there are obstacles, most notably Timothy's religious beliefs, which mean that the affair does not flourish. But through the coming years, their paths continue to cross...

A bit like Sex and Other Changes, I read this book pretty quickly and so perhaps didn't have the chance to savour it as much as I should. It was better than that book, and maybe better than Cupid's Dart, but I'm not sure it's a classic.

Partly the problem (as with Going Gently) is that the book isn't long enough. It covers a period of forty years, and I'd rather it had been spread over a trilogy (or more). There are plenty of characters in it with potential but I am not sure there was space for them all to be fully realised.

I felt myself getting more and more affectionate for the characters as the book progressed, especially Timothy's pub-crawling friends, and Timothy and Naomi's fathers, but by the time this had happened the book was three-quarters over.

The other reservation I'd have is that this book recycled some jokes and themes from previous novels. Especially Henry Pratt - Timothy is rather like Henry (who also suffered from pangs of religious conscience), and Naomi is not altogether unlike Hilary (like Hilary, she has a nervous breakdown). There's also a gay couple who live a rather bohemian life, which again echoes the Pratt books. If I'd not read any other Nobbs novels I think it would have felt a lot fresher. I feel I am being quite critical but that is probably a reflection of the high expectations I have.

And another thing... this book had a bit more swearing and - well, not exactly explicit descriptions of sex, but less elliptical references than are normal for a Nobbs book. I remember when hearing Nobbs saying that he thought writers used bad language too casually, as a cheap way of provoking a reaction, so I am sure he has done this advisedly. But for me it jarred a bit and I'm not convinced that it worked.

Having said that, it was a good book, and I whizzed through it, so it was obviously readable. There were some chuckles in it ("Rick Ferrensby, asked to find a good band within the budget, has succeeded in half his task. 'The Ricking Slickers' are well within the budget." - very typical Nobbs) and some tugging of heartstrings. The section with Timothy and Nicola in the Indian Restaurant after the TV show (again reminiscent of Pratt) was very good but again left me thinking "I'd like more of these characters".

I need to re-read it more slowly I think (actually maybe it's time to re-read Sex and Other Changes).

Completed : 10-Jul-2010

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