The Answer to Everything by Luke Kennard
|The Answer to Everything by Luke Kennard|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: Emily's life should feel good: lovely husband, two gorgeous boys and a new home. Why does it all feel vaguely unsatisfying? A beautiful, engaging read.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 416||Date: May 2021|
|Publisher: 4th Estate|
|External links: Author's website|
Life should have been good for Emily. She had a lovely husband, Steven, who was a speech therapist. We'll pass over the fact that they rarely speak to each other and don't even sleep in the same bed. It isn't so much that Emily has left the marital bed as that she's sharing a bed with one of her children as it's the only way to get him to sleep during the night. Arthur and Matty are gorgeous but they are a handful and Emily has a job to cope with too - she teaches drama two days a week. They've not long moved into a new home in Criterion Gardens: it's a trendy area that has been gentrified and it's run on semi-communal lines. The residents even share eco-friendly electric cars rather than owning their own.
What's not to love about life then? Well, Emily has a history of mental illness and she lacks support until she meets up with Elliott and Alathea Broughton. Elliott - charming and a little lost - is a lecturer and Alathea - beautiful, confident and disarmingly open - is a psychoanalyst. They have two children - Tomasz and Dimitry - who are about the same age as Arthur and Matty. Meeting on school runs, trips to the park and the general business of life are all too easy for Elliott and Emily - far too easy, as it turns out. Emily is susceptible to attention, despite her strong religious beliefs.
If Emily's susceptible, what's in it for Elliott? They talk in person: there's little they can't or don't share. They text each other at all hours of the day and the night: in one fortnight there were 8042 texts. Elliott's relationship with Alathea is dysfunctional: passion is provoked by hurting each other or by damaging or destroying the other's precious belongings. Elliott tells Emily that he loves Alathea but that he loves Emily too. How's it going to end?
I was told that the novel was heartbreakingly moving and hilariously funny and I completely got the heartbreakingly moving bit to the point that I cried for Elliott and Emily. Luke Kennard is a poet - he knows how to use words to great effect - and he took me back into every dysfunctional relationship I'd encountered. At one point I wondered if I might need Alathea Broughton's professional services to sort out a few personal issues. I didn't find the book hilariously funny. 'Mildly amusing on occasions' was about as far as I got on that front. To be brutally honest, it was an uncomfortable, if addictive read about people, none of whom I could really warm to.
It's a forensic study of obsession and possession and I was just beginning to wonder where it was going when Kennard twisted the story in a way that made my jaw drop - and I simply didn't see it coming despite all the clues being there. Superb.
I'd like to thank the publishers for letting Bookbag have a review copy. You might also enjoy Crazy as Chocolate by Elisabeth Hyde.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Answer to Everything by Luke Kennard at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You could get a free audio download of The Answer to Everything by Luke Kennard with a 30-day Audible free trial at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Answer to Everything by Luke Kennard at Amazon.com.
Check prices, read reviews or buy from Foyles. Foyles currently charges £2.99 (first class £3.99) for orders under £25, over which delivery is free. You may also click and collect from a Foyles bookshop at no charge.
Check prices, read reviews or buy from Waterstones. Waterstones currently charges from £2.75 for orders under £20, over which delivery is free. You may also click and collect from a Waterstones bookshop at no charge.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.