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.
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Unseen Charlie and the Chocolate Factory chapter deemed 'too subversive' released
- 2 Ebola virus: It's ripped through towns – now the deadliest ever outbreak of the virus is heading for Africa's teeming cities
- 3 Joan Rivers: 'Palestinians deserve to be dead'
- 4 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
- 5 Mexican woman becomes world’s 'oldest person' at 127
Unseen Charlie and the Chocolate Factory chapter deemed 'too subversive' released
Doctor Who, Into the Dalek, review: Classic sci-fi adventure has blockbuster spectacle
Nicki Minaj suffers wardrobe malfunction during MTV VMAs performance with Ariana Grande and Jessie J
Best movies on Netflix UK and US: 32 films that will end your endless scrolling
The Leftovers, TV review: Prepare to be bewildered by the latest mystery from the creator of Lost
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
Rotherham child sex abuse scandal: Labour Home Office to be probed over what Tony Blair's government knew - and when
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
What do immigrants really think of Britain? Polish immigrant's Reddit post goes viral
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
With Douglas Carswell joining Ukip, my party has taken another giant step forward
- < Previous
- Next >