This is unapologetically a playscript turned into a novel. It’s very successful – there’s no problem that most of the pages are simply dialogue with the character names deleted from the margin. Because the dialogue is excellent – I would have thoroughly enjoyed the play.
Lodge has so many calling cards, and while I don’t relish every one of them, he really is playing to his strengths. This time the issue (there’s always an issue) is the relationship of the press with celebrity. Wisely, as ever, his main character has enough similarities to himself to allow some more honest and informed meditation (and, typically, and less wisely, sexual daydream: all of his semi-autobiographical narrators, from the teenager of ‘Out of the Shelter’, to the deaf septuagenarian of Deaf Sentence, seem to somehow find themselves in the most unlikely, “I never thought this would happen to me…” scenarios). There’s interesting and insightful sifting of the issues, but while this could have been turned into a capable essay, rather it’s incorporated into cracking dialogue and engaging interpersonal relationships.
There’s real craft in this, and it would have been particularly poignant, stamped, as it is, at a moment in recent British history.