I tend not to be lured by the onslaught of summer reading that hits bookshops around June or so but there’s usually one novel aimed squarely at that market I hope will hit the spot. Last year’s was The Paper Palace which turned out to be much darker than I expected. This year’s is Liza Klaussman’s This is Gonna End in Tears set in the summer of 1984 when a few chickens come home to roost for Olly, Miller and Ash whose lives have been entangled since childhood.
Everything’s going to be all right… … Well, either that, or it’s all going to end in tears
Olly has a reputation for screwing over his friends, not least Miller and Ash with whom he set up a successful record label after they took off from their childhood home together, selling it decades later without their permission to get himself into movie production, a deal that backfired spectacularly for him. Once lovers, Olly and Miller have not seen each other for years when she’s called by his Aunt Tassie’s care home. Miller and Ash’s marriage has long been in trouble, kept under wraps for the sake of seventeen-year-old Nate who’s about to go to film school. When Olly arrives to take care of Tassie, the dynamics of this threesome are resurrected. Meanwhile, Olly’s director pal has arrived in town to film Moby-Dick, originally Olly’s project, and the locals are agog. As the summer wears on, relationships become increasingly tangled, Tassie descends into dementia, while Nate, his best friend Cam, and Suki look set replicate the previous generation’s triangle.
Those two seemed destined to continuously circle each other throughout their whole lives without being able to find a way to untangle the knot
It was its structure that attracted me to Klaussmann’s novel: three people intimate with each other years ago are thrust together at a moment of crisis for them all, an interesting premise which she handles well. It gets off to a slightly jerky start with lots of flashbacks and changes of perspective but once backstories are fleshed out, settles down into an absorbing read. Klaussmann’s period touches are spot on. There’s a particularly pleasing early ‘80s soundtrack running through her novel giving rise to a host of earworms but I’m more than happy to have Talking Heads running through my head. Klaussmann knows how to spin a story, weaving a nice thread of humour through her novel, and neatly resolving the question of Nate’s paternity at the end. An enjoyable summer read, then, although I suspect not a particularly memorable one for me. One to pack in your holiday suitcase if you’re planning to slip your brain into neutral.
John Murray Press: London 9781529389364 368 pages Hardback