[Greg, an IT salesman, is attending Infotech 2014, ‘a two-day conference for the UK’s IT industry’]
He was in Birmingham, stranded like a beached whale that’s lost the will to live. At least the conference was good for networking. Many of his clients were here, affording him the opportunity to remind them that the next time they upgraded their systems (every two or three years in the fast-changing world of IT), he was their go-to guy…. If only the people weren’t so dull. Strait laced, buttoned down.
Worse than the delegates were the sessions/ The titles changed but the speakers remained as boring as ever, evangelising about arcane technological advances that only other geeks could get a hard-on for.
‘I wish I could come home,’ Greg told Amanda now [on the phone].
Amanda laughed, which Greg didn’t feel was an altogether sympathetic response. He was right.
‘You say that every year,’ she reminded him. ‘and then you have a great time. Someone has a party in their room, you all get horribly pissed and you can’t wait to do it again 12 months later.’
commentary: Mike Bullen is famous in the UK for a TV series called Cold Feet, which was universally loved among a certain section of the population from 1998-2003. I was living in America at the time, so never saw it, but my contemporaries all enjoyed it very much. From what I can tell, this novel – his first – is set in a similar milieu. (Cold Feet is having a reunion/revival on TV soon, apparently.)
I decided to broaden my reading in 2016, read some different kinds of books. Having looked around to see what was coming out around now, I picked this and Jane Fallon’s Strictly Between Us, reviewed on the blog recently. I enjoyed them both very much, but hilariously they didn’t really represent much of a widening, as they both have very similar styles and starting points. Both take a good look at modern life as it is lived in London today by people in their 30s, and both revolve around couples who might be faithful or unfaithful, might trust or not trust each other, might go to some lengths to try to find out what is going on, might have to work to save a relationship.
In Trust, Dan and Greg go to their conference, leaving their partners Amanda and Sarah behind. They meet some women in the bar of the Birmingham hotel, and contemplate having a fling. This night of mistakes and potential mistakes will reverberate through the book. Sarah and Amanda have their own issues, and the book follows each of the characters in turn. It’s very funny, full of witty observations on modern life, and very cleverly plotted. Facts and non-facts get disseminated in a variety of very inventive ways. And there are plenty of good jokes – Amanda’s sister is describing a date she went on, where they started at a club for cocktails:
‘Well it seemed to be the thing to do. You know, to get us in the mood. Trevor had a sexual craving and I had a need to get laid.’After Amanda has apologized, the joke will develop in a predictable way, but I still found it funny.
‘Jesus, Geri! Since your divorce, you’ve been like a greyhound on heat.’
Geraldine fixed her sister with a level stare. ‘That’s what our cocktails were called.’
This was an enjoyable look at modern life, though I’m interested that – based on my massive sample of two novels – mistrust in marriage is a current motif. There used to be a lot of novels about searching for a life-partner – are these the follow-up books, telling us what happened to those relationships a few years down the line?
Perhaps it matches up with the current trend for marriage noir thrillers such as Gone Girl and Girl on the Train – these are the non-crime versions. Both this book and Strictly Between Us were certainly as clever and twisty and unguessable as any crime novel - and both had excellent modern use of social media and modern methods of communication. This will probably date the books in a few years time, but for now was great. And this one had an absolutely excellent ending: I had to read the last couple of paragraphs several times – there’s an ambiguity there, I’m guessing readers are meant to make up their own minds about what it means. Very very clever.
Conference photos from Wikimedia Commons. Top photo by Mike Peel (www.mikepeel.net).