Paperback review: Joy, By Jonathan Lee
Lawyers: the opposite of real people
Saturday 20 July 2013
In a sleek office building at the heart of London's Square Mile, a corporate lawyer plummets 40 feet on to a marble floor. The young woman – who was saddled with the grimly ironic name of Joy – had been haunted by a tragedy in her family. But was she really suicidal? Did she jump – or was she pushed?
Jonathan Lee's second novel (after the offbeat, Tokyo-set Who is Mr Satoshi?) is a black comedy of exuberance and bite. The story unfolds via a third-person account of the events that led up to Joy's fall, interspersed with a series of monologues from friends and colleagues after the event. The reader must sort through these self-exculpatory speeches and determine the truth behind the incident.
The conceit is original, and brilliantly executed; the characters' voices – from the toffish tones of Joy's ineffectual husband, Dennis, to the complaints of her put-upon secretary, Barbara – ventriloquised with flair. There are some great lines: Joy admired Dennis "the way you might admire a well-made French film, one where everything's shot from odd angles".
The humour often has a satirical edge, as Lee – who once worked in the City – depicts the legal industry as a deviously efficient enabler of capitalist greed. Barbara puts it bluntly: "All these lawyers. They're not people. They're professionals. They're the opposite of people!"
The author loses his nerve a little at the climax, in which he forsakes ironic detachment and reaches for pathos. Nevertheless, this is the wittiest, most addictive piece of literary yuppie-bashing since Martin Amis's Money. Lee is a writer to keep an eye on.
Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Germanwings crash: Captain of doomed plane was only 'on board because he changed job to spend more time with his children'
- 2 Ohio Democrat Teresa Fedor speaks out during abortion debate to reveal she has been raped – and is interrupted by laughter from Republicans
- 3 Gamers confess the worst things they've done in The Sims
- 4 Germanwings crash: 'Andreas Lubitz planned to marry pregnant girlfriend', claims German report
- 5 Germanwings plane crash: Transcript reveals passengers 'screamed for over five minutes' before plane crashed into mountain
Cassetteboy joins forces with Russell Brand for Emperor's New Clothes film
Poldark, review: Demelza’s insouciance is almost as impressive as Ross’ pecs
Jay Z launches streaming service Tidal with help from Kanye West, Rihanna and Coldplay
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Menstruation-themed photo series artist 'censored by Instagram' says images are to demystify taboos around periods
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
Street preacher quoting from the Bible fined for calling homosexuality an 'abomination'
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
David Cameron calls Labour 'hopeless, sneering socialists' while announcing 7-day NHS plans