[Amy has returned to her London flat unexpectedly]
In the bedroom… there was an unfamiliar suitcase on my side. I flung it open, rifled through the clothes insides. She was a size 8 whoever she was. In the wardrobe a row of dresses, blouses and skirts edged my own stuff to the far corner. Some of them looked familiar but I couldn’t work out why. The labels revealed they were from Zara, Top Shop, Warehouse. Half my friends probably have the same things….
I open the unfamiliar suitcase again and start flinging stuff out, not caring about the mess I’m making. Its mostly underwear, and definitely not the kind that’s gone grey through being washed too many times. It feels weird to examine it too closely so I pile it all up on one side. There are a couple of T-shirts and a pair of jeans, neither of which give much away. A few brightly coloured tops. I start going through the pockets of the case. Keys, a novel, a few old receipts, a tissue, a few hairgrips, a comb. [The receipts are for] a sandwich from Pret, some Lemsip, a coffee. I’m none the wiser. Apart from the fact that she’s a woman with a cold who likes ham.
I kick the suitcase in frustration.
commentary: Jane Fallon’s books are terrific, but I do sometimes think she should be writing crime books – so, let’s say, as well as her line in contemporary, funny novels. She is the absolute mistress of plotting, and of revenge stories, and of back and forths in a competitive, difficult or point-scoring relationship. She is a modern-day Revenge Tragedy/Comedy Queen, the John Webster of today, only with great clothes, and witty comebacks, and some chance of a happy ending.
Hers are excellent books, full of surprises and twists and turns, and if she wrote a flatout murder mystery I am betting it would be up there with the very best. Just an idea.
In this one (as in all her books I have read so far) she doesn’t waste any time - it’s another thing I love about her- the setup is brought to us straightoff in the opening pages. Amy is working in New York, and comes home unexpectedly to surprise her fiance. Of course, she gets the surprise: her boyfriend is sleeping with her best friend Melissa.
Horrified, Amy acts as if she hasn’t found out – she wants time to figure out what to do. As it happens, her job in NY is coming to an end so (in a slight challenge to believability) she comes back to London and gets another flat, while pretending to the two most important people in her life that she is still in NY. All clear on that? She goes to considerable lengths to maintain the fiction through Skyping and so on, and starts rebuilding her life in a not-particularly-nice part of North London. She is greatly helped in this by having another friend, Kat who (it is not a spoiler to say) is a much nicer person than the evil Mel.
Interspersed with her story of cheering up her new flat, trying to find work, meeting a new potential boyfriend, we hear the long story of her relationship with Mel, from when they were at school together. It is very nicely done, with only a slight feeling that Amy should have seen her coming a mile off, and that for someone so nice and so smart she was mighty stupid about Mel. But, there you go, we’ve probably all been there in some measure.
There is another element to the book (which previous readers of Fallon will guess) in the way of surprises and viewpoints, but I will say no more for fear of spoilers. The twists are impressive, the reader really wants to know what is going to happen next, and as ever with Fallon, the female characters (whether good or bad) are far more interesting and entertaining than the males. And the book is also very funny – all the characters get very witty lines, and the picture of modern London life is both authentic and hilarious.
So just sit back and enjoy the book – FallonWorld is a great place to spend an afternoon.