Wednesday, 7 March 2012

William Nicholson - The Secret Intensity of Everyday Life

Some authors are completely new to me as is Nicolson and that is part of the fun of finding out about books and authors..
Here Nicholson transports the flavour of The Unbearable Lightness of Being to Joanna Trollope's landscape as he follows, over six days, the lives of a group of middle-class bumblers living in a Sussex village.
Ostensibly the story centres around the seemingly idyllic marriage of Laura and Henry, as Laura receives a letter from Nick, a man with whom she had a passionate affair 20 years ago. Her self-obsessed, frustrated husband has never been any match for Nick's dynamism and she knows it. The reader knows she has – at most – a week to make up her mind whether she is in or out of her marriage.
Henry is a brilliant, tortured character, hating himself for his success as a documentary director, always upstaged by the idiotic posers who front his programmes. His disillusion is shared by the other characters whose lives are discreetly doomed by the failure to act with any honesty or daring: Alan, the teacher still kidding himself that really he's a playwright; Liz, the single mother who can't stay away from her manipulative ex; Marion, the disturbed woman with designs on Alan; the vicar who is questioning his faith.
Somehow Nicholson avoids any of this becoming twee, with his remarkable eye for detail and for the weaknesses of human nature. There is an undercurrent of lust throughout the novel, somehow poignant, sometimes comical. He moves slickly between his characters, pulling away unpredictably just as we think we've got to know them. You can almost feel him panning cinematically across their lives.
More commercial than his previous adult novels, The Trial of True Love and The Society of Others, this is an interesting departure for a writer who knows his way around the human psyche. In Nicholson's capable hands, the cosy setting becomes uneasy and the familiar takes on new meaning: think Midsomer Murders but with existentialism instead of murder. The sequel – All the Hopeful Lovers – is out in September. Can't wait.
The writing is unobtrusively brilliant. I can't remember enjoying and admiring a new novel more."—Elizabeth Jane Howard, author of Marking Time

"Utterly captures the sense of quiet desperation of ordinary lives . . . and the ways in which life turns on a sixpence."—Kate Mosse, author of Sepulchre

"Hugely funny. . . . But beneath the Wodehousian surface, it is a serious book about men, women and children with complex inner lives trying to find happiness and coping with disappointment."—Daily Telegraph

Laura is a happily married mother of two who begins to question her choices when her first love resurfaces after twenty years. She’s forced to compare the passion of that relationship with the domesticity of her suburban life. What if she’d stayed with him? Would she be happier? And what is happiness, really?

Little does she know that many others in her gentrified English village, including a rector who’s lost his faith, a frustrated school teacher, and a successful single mother who can’t get over her ex, are struggling with their own personal crises.

Two of William Nicholson's screenplays—Shadowlands and Gladiator—have garnered Academy Award nominations. He is the author of five previous novels and lives in Sussex with his wife and three children.


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