Funny, angsty, unconventionally romantic… A L Kennedy’s Booker-longlisted novel is very readable. Meg is a bankrupt accountant, living in Lewisham, trying to stay sober and working for an animal sanctuary (there is an excellent dog in this book). Jon is a senior civil servant who hates his Government job and most of his colleagues. He is troubled by things he is asked to do but appears stuck. Both characters are trying to do their best in current day London, a city which can feel dangerous and uncaring. But will their separate stories collide during the 24 hours covered by the book, and if so how?
Serious Sweet feels completely current, and the frequent stabs of humour reflect Kennedy’s stand-up experience. There is enough bitterness to make the sweetness stand out. This is just what you’d expect from this thoughtful writer, who always engages fearlessly with contemporary concerns. I recommend reading the book at a gallop, to get the most out of the single day structure.
For collectors of London novels, this is a must-have. Wholly convincing instances of kindness to strangers, often on London’s public transport, are recounted. The unexpected village nook, Shepherd Market in Mayfair, is clearly inspirational for novelists at the moment, as it also stars in Francesca Kay’s excellent The Long Room (https://www.faber.co.uk/9780571322527-the-long-room.html). Kennedy also gives us the best description of the new London skyscrapers anywhere. It is possibly worth reading the whole book just for this.
I’ll always take a chance on reading A L Kennedy, author of the funniest short story I’ve ever read (The Mouseboks Family Dictionary, in her collection Now That You’re Back – http://www.a-l-kennedy.co.uk/book/now-that-youre-back/). It still makes my cry with laughter.
Life is not perfect, or sometimes even tolerable, but there can be more chances.
Review by Bethan