Battle of the notepads
Saturday 28 January 1995
In Crazy Paving, Louise Doughty's first novel, the grey horizons of deepest South London aren't exactly washed clean, but do come up a lighter shade of pale. Criss-crossing the area is London's "Capital Transport" network. Annette, Joan and Helly rely onthis temperamental system not only to get them to work, but also to make a living - as secretaries for the Capital Transport Authority.
Doughty is well-versed in the absurdities and rituals of office life. One of these - requests from middle-aged males for cups of coffee - is at the heart of one of the novel's set pieces and very funny, capturing that tone of "politeness within the context of total command". But that's not to say that the women form a natural sisterhood. It's only when "the gits" stoop too low that Helly, Annette and Joan lay down their spiral note-pads and prepare for battle.
The plot, involving corruption in the highest places, is less important than the developing relationship between these mis-matched office-mates. Annette, 31, with limp hair and bulimic tendencies, resides in spotless splendour in a modern starter home inRushey Green. Helly, office junior from hell, is as slatternly and bad-tempered as any French and Saunders schoolgirl, while kind, cheery Joan lives a life of quiet desperation just off the Camberwell New Road.
Doughty's prose comes thick and fast, and although not all the comedy works - Richard, the S-and-M-loving boss, is a little too over-blown to be funny - a sad honesty tinges her humour to just the right degree. Peopled with extras who could just have walked off a Mike Leigh set, Crazy Paving is almost too rich in detail; but it's the likeable excess of a first-time novelist, and Doughty's sharp insights always save the day - even the potentially disastrous finale when she sends her heroines hurtling towards their own Waterloos, or in this case, Victoria Station.
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 2 This is what the photographer has to say about the picture of a weasel riding a woodpecker
- 3 Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
- 4 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
- 5 Average penis size revealed: Scientists attempt to find what is 'normal' to reassure concerned men
Poldark star Heida Reed says show is not that racy: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
Glastonbury 2015: Coldplay will not headline but Florence Welch might play, says Emily Eavis
Kanye West drops 'All Day', music video to come from Steve McQueen
Game of Thrones season 5 spoilers: What we can expect according to George RR Martin's books
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut