Towards the End of the Morning, by Michael Frayn

Set in a newspaper office in the 60s, about a set of journalists who all think that they should be doing better things, while worrying that they'll be stuck compiling crosswords and "country diary" columns for the rest of their careers.

This was a recommendation from A Good Read and, having read and enjoyed a couple of Frayn novels, I thought I'd give it a go.

And it was a really good read: well written, perceptive, and funny. Well, I assume it was perceptive: I don't know what newspaper offices were like, but it felt pretty convincing. Some bits seemed quite prescient: for example, where Dyson is considering whether he should make a TV appearance, and whether it would help his career:

'I have a serious point,' said Dyson, 'and that is that nowadays, it's not excellence which leads to celebrity, but celebrity which leads to excellence'
This was in the '60s, but feels pretty contemporary.

There was a very funny passage (too long to quote) where Dyson's car runs out of petrol (he won't accept that this is what's wrong, calling "I'm not waiting for you; as soon as I get the car going, I'm off", as Bob walks off with a petrol can in search of a garage).

And there was poignancy too: Tessa imagining how she might write to her boyfriend, Bob, who doesn't love her as much as she loves him "Look how I write you this letter! I keep it inside my head, so that you'll never see it, or anything like it...". Bob, frustrated at the chaos of life with Tessa, imagines how nice it must be for Dyson, who's settled down and married, while at the same time Dyson envies Bob's carefree existence with Tessa.

There were also several places where the scene contains many people, all talking over one another, at cross-purposes. That really worked well.

Something that reminded me a bit of Amsterdam: a description of a plane taxiing at an airport: "engines whirring, the blast of air behind it crinkling the standing rainwater on the apron into a million fleeing furrows..." - the word crinkling is exactly right.

Really enjoyed it.

Completed : 10-Nov-2013

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