Turning Forty by Mike Gayle
|Turning Forty by Mike Gayle|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Iain Wear|
|Summary: Mike Gayle doesn't write novels, he writes little slices of life. If you're 40-ish and don't find something you can relate to here, you've not been paying enough attention. To life, as well as to the book.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 416||Date: June 2013|
|Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton|
|External links: Author's website|
I made the mistake of reading Mike Gayle's Turning Thirty in the weeks before I did so. Despite it being a story of a man whose life fell apart just before his 30th birthday, he still seemed to be doing better than I was, which made it a readable but depressing experience. Fortunately, Turning Forty is being published about 15 months before I reach that milestone and my life is in a different place which, hopefully, will combine to make it a more enjoyable read.
After the meltdown he had just before his 30th birthday, Matt Beckford is approaching his 40th with his life and his ambitions intact. He has a job which pays a very high salary, enough for him to own his own house in London and a car allowance that permits a Porsche as a company car. He's also married to a fantastic woman and has finally achieved what he sees as the pinnacle of mature manhood and has just had his very own shed delivered.
But quicker than the shed goes up, Matt's life falls apart. His wife announces that she wants a divorce and the work-related stress that Matt had been feeling for years suddenly becomes too much for him, forcing him to quit his job. To avoid the awkwardness of continuing to live with his estranged wife, Matt heads back to his parents' house in Birmingham, much as he did in Turning Thirty, to see if he can put everything together once again.
The one thing I've always loved about Mike Gayle's writing is that it has a realistic feel that is often lacking in the chick- and bloke-lit genres. Admittedly, many of us may never achieve the career heights that Matt has, but divorce and work-related stress are very common in today's world and the latter in particular is rarely explored in a writing genre where everyone seems to be able to enjoy two hour lunches. The disappointment he feels as his parents sell the home he grew up in is something familiar to me personally, as is Matt's discovery that the people he didn't much like when he was at school have grown up into people he still doesn't much like. There are some moments that don't seem entirely realistic, such as when he finds one of his heroes managing a charity shop, or the slightly too great a coincidence of the house he ends up living in, but there are enough familiar touches here for many to find it realistic at least in part.
The other aspect of Mike Gayle's writing I've always loved is the laid-back style he writes in. The writing drifts a little, much like Matt's life. There are no real sudden changes of pace, at least not after Matt's world comes crashing down as quickly as it does. He's in a life hiatus and the style and pace of the writing matches this perfectly. I also like how Gayle lets the reader's mind fill in a lot of the gaps, not bothering with too much descriptive work, as the average person wouldn't think about things or people in that way. Certain aspects stick out in the memory of the characters in much the same way as any of us would recall a particular aspect of a person or event when thinking about them, but never all the details. Once again, it's a touch of reality in a genre that frequently lacks it.
I loved Turning Forty for most of the same reasons Turning Thirty depressed me. Whereas in the latter, Matt's life was better than mine even after it had fallen apart. Whilst there is still time for that to happen before my own fortieth, this time I get to read with a slight feeling of smug superiority, feeling that I've come further in the last decade than he has. It's a worrying state of affairs that I find myself feeling superior to a character in a book, but it only confirms how realistic the book is that I find it as easy to compare myself with Matt as to anyone I know in real life.
As with Turning Thirty, this may not be a book to read if you're approaching forty and aren't entirely satisfied with your lot. But for those of us who are either happy in our own skins whilst nearing that age, or for those who are outside of an age range five years either side of that marker, this is an enjoyable, relaxed read that will go perfectly with a warm beach and a cold drink as Summer approaches.
Mike Gayle's work is always worth reading and The Life and Soul of the Party is no exception.
You can read more book reviews or buy Turning Forty by Mike Gayle at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Turning Forty by Mike Gayle at Amazon.com.
Turning Forty by Mike Gayle is in the Top Ten General Fiction Books of 2013.
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