Three Jumpers by Michael Marr

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Three Jumpers by Michael Marr

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jason Mark Curley
Reviewed by Jason Mark Curley
Summary: An hilarious must read comic/literary novel.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: October 2008
Publisher: PaperBooks Publishing Ltd
ISBN: 978-1906558482

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When Bardolph Middle placed an ad in the paper proclaiming he was a writer, he thought he might get the odd request to write a speech or two. Maybe, if he was very lucky, a company might ask him to conceive an entire marketing plan and advertising campaign. What he never expected was this job offer…

Enter Trevor Tumbrell: fortyish, dull, working in middle management for a train company. His life is just one disappointment after another. He realises that he has no impact on the world whatsoever and decides to commit suicide. In a last ditch attempt to provide some lasting meaning to his existence he decides he should not let this event go unmarked and to provide a cautionary tale to others, as well as a sort of memorial to himself, he hires Bardolph Middle to write his elegy.

But it's by no means plain sailing. Bardolph's Catholic guilt soon kicks in as he struggles with the fact that, if he goes through with it, he might be an accessory to Trevor's suicide. He struggles with the idea of using another writer's work as a shortcut, as he's never seen a book in Trevor's house. But somehow Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears. I come to bury Trevor, not to praise him doesn't seem like it's going to work. And now he's here, sitting by Trevor along a girder atop the Golden Gate Bridge and it's a long way down.

I loved this book – such a great idea and so fresh in its style and delivery. Bardolph is a real cynic and expert manipulator with the intellect to predict and edge his way around the motivations of others. His struggles (other than being an impoverished writer) are mostly internal, which makes it hard not to be on his side. For some reason I found it hard to find any sympathy for Trevor at all, which is probably the point.

It has a contemporary edginess which is hard to narrow down to any other writer. Fans of Tom Sharpe will love it because it's as side-splittingly funny as Sharpe but without the class fixation. Fans of Ben Elton will love it because its situational elements are as well observed as Elton's but without the political abandonment issues. And fans of Fry will love it because it's as sharp and intellectually well conceived as the best of Fry, but without the unavoidable Fryness. Having said all that, it's also nothing like any of those authors at all.

The laughs come thick and fast, and on a number of different levels. It mixes a great story with superbly funny writing, observational comedy and straight out gut-laugh gags. The novel is also full literary references providing intertextual humour. If you can spot all the literary references within the novel there is even a prize on offer from the publisher.

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