Sunday, 23 December 2012

JOY by Jonathan Lee

This novel is about a lawyer on the last day of her life. She plans to commit suicide, and one strand of the book follows her through that day with that knowledge within her. The other strands are contributed by the people who know her, who talk about the day in retrospect.

The main strength of this book lies in the powerful imagining of Joy’s internal life. It’s is as depressing a subject as HOPE: A TRAGEDY, which I read last, and yet it is at least as much about human endeavor, and possibility, as it is about meaningless and failure.

The other strands were less successful. She has a long on-and-off relationship with a man named Peter, who is presented as more or less a horrible manipulator. There is a particularly unsuccessful character, called Samir, who works in her office gym, and is an immigrant which apparently means he is an idiot. It's interesting that the novel is written by a man, yet the best imagined character is a woman.

So some issues around caricature, but overall an enjoyable and engaging novel. There is also a rather charming evocation of office life. Here’s Peter:
. . . seeing the office as a sanctuary, a place where the wider world was both abbreviated and improved. Beautiful women. Pleasant furnishings. A range of enjoyable biscuits.

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