Arrow £7.99 (592pp) (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop : 08430 600 030
Leaving the World, By Douglas Kennedy
Friday 26 February 2010
The joys of self-sabotage are often found at the heart of Douglas Kennedy's fiction. His characters may start out as well-adjusted professionals in happy relationships, but you can be sure that by chapter five they'll find themselves on the run – both from the authorities and themselves. It's what makes his books fly off the shelves.
Jane Howard, like many of Kennedy's female narrators, is an anxious East Coast over-achiever. Having survived an embattled childhood, she finds herself at Harvard, where she falls in love with her married supervisor. Just as the relationship looks set to blossom, her part-time boyfriend gets hit by an oncoming truck. "A chacun son destin" is one of the recurring maxims of Kennedy's work - his French fans approve - and from this point on, Jane's prospects don't look good.
The next man to enter her life is Theo Morgan, a film fanatic and all-round nasty piece of work. Together they have a daughter, but Theo proves as ill-equipped for fatherhood as for earning a living. In a moment of maternal multi-tasking, Jane once again manages to lose the love of her life– under the wheels of a speeding cab. In any other writer's hands, this pile-up of misery might sound risible, but Kennedy keeps us wanting to know what happens next. Third acts are his forte, and the story of Jane's flight to Canada has all the pay-offs of an adult fairy tale. It's tempting to criticise this book as manipulative, but being taken advantage is exactly what we pay him to do.
Game of Thrones
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
- 2 Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
- 3 Make your voice heard: Sign The Independent's petition to welcome refugees
- 4 Refugee crisis: Aylan's life was full of fear - in death, he is part of 'humanity washed ashore'
- 5 German police forced to ask public to stop bringing donations for refugees arriving by train
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 100,000 back our campaign
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up