Meeting the English: A Novel by Kate Clanchy

Meeting the English: A Novel by Kate Clanchy

Another title to add to the “bad blogger” pile.One of the joys of being a book blogger is the options and availability of titles. Options and availability is also a double-edged sword, and occasionally things get shoved aside. Such is the case today with this unique novel from  Kate Clanchy.  Please read on for my review of

Meeting the English: A Novel

A bit unexpected and a touch uneven, Meeting the English by Kate Clanchy has some of the hallmarks of a great story, tempered by some odd quirks and inclusions that just didn’t feel quite authentic.

The protagonist, Struan, has come to London from a small Scottish village, to take care of a semi-famous playwright after his stroke.  The pointed narrative from Struan is pure genius, taking the best of social commentary and composing it with pointed wit, delivered in a somewhat offhanded manner. This aids in the poking fun of “Englishness” which is often a somewhat ‘learned’ behavior, characterized by so many ‘rules’ and copycats in society and celebrity. With lighthearted humorous moments, Clanchy manages to keep the story on just this side of schmaltzy nostalgia, as set in the 80’s, as with all stories that ‘look back’ the remembering is often more compelling than the actual time.

Aside from Struan, we have Phillip the playwright and his rather pretentious and spoilt ways, his ex-wife, the current wife and two children: all dysfunctional in their own way, and Struan’s quick assessment and narrative about the individuals: never truly mean spirited, but pointed in a way that provides readers with instant references that aid in their understanding.  There is no great display of emotion here, much of the humor comes from the little connections that readers make to the descriptions and details that Struan provides. Some deadpan, some funny just because the similes used are at once ridiculous and utterly apt, this was a fun read with plenty to enjoy.

A novel that is both typically English and wholly global, I’ll be sure to look for more from this author.

Meeting the English: A Novel by Kate Clanchy

Title: Meeting the English: A Novel
Author: Kate Clanchy
Genre: Literary Fiction
Published by: Thomas Dunne Books
ISBN: 1250059771
Published on: 3 March 2015
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Pages: 320
Rated: four-stars
Get Your Copy: Amazon Barnes&Noble iTunes Downpour Book Depository Google
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"Exceptional . . . Clanchy has a wincingly accurate eye for social comedy, a vivid descriptive sense, and profound understanding of her characters. This is a delectable read." --Daily Mail (UK)

In response to an advertisement, Struan Robertson, orphan, genius, and just seventeen, leaves his dour native town in Scotland, and arrives at a creaky mansion in London in the freakishly hot summer of 1989. His job, he finds, is to care for playwright and one-time literary star Phillip Prys, dumbfounded and paralyzed by a massive stroke, because, though Phillip's two teenage children, two wives, and a literary agent all rattle 'round his large house, they are each too busy with their peculiar obsessions to do it themselves. As the city bakes, Struan finds himself tangled in a midsummer's dream of mistaken identity, giddying property prices, wild swimming, and overwhelming passions. For everyone, it is to be a life-changing summer.

Kate Clanchy's Meeting the English is a bright book about dark subjects--a tale about kindness and its limits, told with love. It is a coming of age story for anyone who has ever felt themselves to be an outsider; a love story for the awkward; and a comedy for anyone who has ever lived in a family. Written by an acclaimed writer of poetry, non-fiction, and short stories, this glorious debut novel is spiked with witty dialogue and jostling with gleeful, zesty characters.

A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.

About Kate Clanchy

Kate Clanchy was born and grew up in Scotland and now lives in Oxford. Her poetry collections Slattern, Samarkand andNewborn have brought her many literary awards and an unusually wide audience. She is the author of the much acclaimedAntigona and Me, and was the 2009 winner of the BBC Short Story Award. She has also written extensively for Radio 4.