Everything You Know by Zoe Heller
|Everything You Know by Zoe Heller|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Zoe Morris|
|Summary: The tale of an ill-fated writer still recovering from various life disasters including a did-she-fall-or-was-she-pushed court case from 20 years ago, this is a book that has both wicked and wickedly funny parts.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 208||Date: June 2000|
|Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd|
I'd read and enjoyed Notes On A Scandal before I saw this book lying around the teachers' flat in which I'm currently residing (in fact I'm trying to make my life a bit more Notes On A Scandal as we speak, but don't worry, all my students are adults, and older than I am). I also used to read her columns in The Sunday Times, but I hadn't heard of this earlier book until I stumbled across it.
Willy Muller's life so far has been a comedy of errors. He has served time for his wife's death, a murder he may or may not have committed. His younger daughter has just killed herself, his older daughter has shunned her not-too-shabby upbringing for a life in one of London's finest council estates. Recovering from a heart attack, and trying to fight off the affections of not one but two girlfriends (who, of course, do not know about each other) his agent recommends a nice trip to Mexico to recuperate. To Willy, this is Not a Good Idea. Mexico is Hot. It has Bugs. You can't even drink the water, for crying out loud. Still, he goes, but the woes with the women in his life continue, the most worrying of all being his recently deceased daughter who, in a moment of kindness or awful wickedness, depending on which way you look at it, posted her father a package shortly before her death. It contains various diaries from her teen years and beyond that allow Willy to relive some of his parenting mistakes from the past.
Willy is a man of few words and even less emotion. He is a passive bystander, narrating on the life that is being lived around him. I liked him a lot. Having written a tell-all book about his wife's death, he has progressed to writing 'sleb bios'. The crap just bubbles out of me, uncorrupted. Bad writing is my gift. he reports matter-of-factly.
Because there are so many other characters, they are not always fully developed, and they do flit in and out of the story (one, not his daughter, makes only a perfunctory appearance before showing up dead a few chapters later) but the wide variety of troubled faces makes up for their short visits. The humour in this book is a little dark, but it's definitely a comedy in its own way.
My only problem with the book is that it doesn't really go anywhere. Though he might think he does, Willy doesn't change much as the pages pass. It's more a description of several chunks of his life, past and present, knitted together into a read that flows well, but from which nothing alters at the end. You don't read with a sense of urgency, keen to find out what is going to happen, because there isn't that sort of build up or direction.
I tend to lean towards chick-lit for my reading, and though lit by a chick, this does not fall into that category. It's much more William Sutcliffe or Nick Hornby, and it made a refreshing change. The fact that the voice of this middle aged man came from the mind of a much younger woman is astonishing. The book is not long – fewer than 200 pages – and I finished it in a day, but it was extremely satisfying if you can deal with the aforementioned lack of outcome.
A recommended read, but somewhat forgettable afterwards.
If this book appeals to you then we think that you might enjoy Kane's Ladder by Carlos Alba.
You can read more book reviews or buy Everything You Know by Zoe Heller at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Everything You Know by Zoe Heller at Amazon.com.
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