Paperback: The Girl Who Was Going to Die, By Glyn Maxwell

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The Independent Culture

At some point Glyn Maxwell's satire on the media and celebrity culture, told entirely in dialogue, must have seemed a good idea. That neither he nor his editor wised up to the sad truth of these poor pages constitutes a steely case of denial indeed.

Susan Mantle is a rather useless London tour guide. Following a terrorist atrocity she is seen crying on a park bench, and images of her are reproduced in the news under the headline "beautiful but crying" so often, she comes to symbolise the mood following the tragedy. She is actually crying because she's interpreted a fortune-teller's advice to mean that she is going to die.

Among the many unflattering things that could be said about this book are two key flaws. Perhaps the first is arguable, but it seems unlikely that any decent news editor would think up a phrase such as "beautiful but crying". The second is more clear cut: the way the story is told through dialogue, with Mantle's voice in roman text and everyone else's in italics, is a confusing, maddening festival of self-indulgence.