Jim Thorne.He wants to understand love.His mum.Her three sisters have epic perms.And they're famous.Dad.Dad's focused on a vital question:Mario or Sonic?It's England, 1989-2009.So expect a little history.The dolphin's name is Dilly....
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The Adult Reviews
On the back cover it says “A well-observed coming-of-age comedy” which is pretty much what the Adult is. It has a nice structure – a kind of intimate complicity with the reader, and deft intrigue-building timing with regards to completing the anecdotes it tells. And there’s a moving pathos about the story towards the end. Essentially it’s a wry self-conscious dig at Celebrity Culture. Trouble here though is that Celebrity Culture does such a fabulous job of ridiculing itself that a novel setting itself the same task is always going to come out the loser – enough to watch twenty minutes of I’m a celebrity, get me out of here to get anyone shaking their head in amused despair. The self –pleasuring prose was irritating at times, all the peacock preening, as if Stretch fancies himself as the new Martin Amis. He tries too hard to write quotable cool sentences and though sometimes really good they are just as often pretty bad. Here are a couple of the good ‘uns: “A decade wandered with us like a lost tourist.” And: “Her moans were somehow off kilter and recalled the sympathetic sounds the dinner ladies made when we grazed our knees on the playground of Ridley Primary.” But what ultimately made me more critical of this novel was the fact it won the Somerset Maugham prize in 2013. I’ve probably read about twenty novels recently by Americans that are so much better than this (Motherless Brooklyn most recently) that it’s depressing to realise how hard up we presently are in the UK for first rate novelists.
Usually I prefer to summarise plots in my own words rather than doing a sneaky copy-and-paste from Amazon, but here I am going to make an exception and use the official blurb because I think it sums things up rather well:"Jim Thorne. He wants to understand love.His mum. Her three sisters have epic perms. And they're famous.Dad. Dad's focused on a vital question: Mario or Sonic?It's England, 1989-2009. So expect a little history."That's all there is to it - this book is about Jim and his life and his family. About the struggles of having to be an adolescent man in a family full of women. About growing up with unhappy parents in the North of England. Although this makes it sound like little more than a character study and it really runs a whole lot deeper than that. I suppose you could call it a 'coming of age' tale, but I'm not sure whether Jim ever actually does grow up or 'come of age' or learn anything about how to relate to people in the end.One thing The Adult never is, is a comfortable read. There were times when I found myself cringing on Jim's behalf and my heart ached for him, but equally there were times when I felt he was a repulsive human being who deserved no sympathy whatsoever. Either way, there is a constant horrible sense of inevitability. Jim is unquestionably one of life's strugglers. His clumsy awkwardness - is that a real word? - is portrayed perfectly. This unease is nicely balanced by the dry humour that I loved in Stretch's earlier books. There is also a healthy dose of 1990s nostalgia backed up by numerous pop culture references that manage to highlight some of the things that were terrible about that decade while simultaneously making me wish I was back there. It's quite cleverly done without the aid of any sentimental rose-tinted glasses.The main thing that strikes me about this novel is how much more sensitive and, I suppose, more 'human' it is than its predecessors. There is definitely a more emotional undercurrent running through The Adult than either Friction or Wildlife and this makes it much more accessible. While I thought both of those books were great, they are certainly bleak and often shocking. Some of my friends couldn't finish them and I definitely wouldn't pass them on to my mum, whereas I think Mum would quite enjoy this one. When he starts writing novels that my Grandma would read I might start to worry, but for now I think Joe Stretch is definitely onto a winner and I hope The Adult gets some more recognition over the coming autumn.
Laugh out loud funny in places. Poignant and heart breaking in others. Full of factoids and examples of what was happening between 1989 & 2009 that evoked such vivid memories it was like being transported back to my teenage years! Which really only added to the book for me. Nicely done.
One of the few writers who offers some compelling insights into the well trodden coming of age narrative. This is a sparkling, incisive book. I've read some of Stretch's early work and always suspected he had a novel like this in him. Read this book!
Unusually funny although sometimes sad too, Joe Stretch has a funky way of observing life in this very well written book. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
A tale about quirky families and sibling relationships and growing up, funny and poignant.
Two pages into this novel, I encountered this illuminating comparison:The inside of my fridge is like a room in a modern art gallery - bare, bright white and then the odd disturbing object.Goodreader, I was hooked. Nearly 200 pages later, our narrator Jim Thorne goes to meet an old friend and prepares as follows:I rehearsed a smile to greet [her] with but...decided against it, in favour of a subtle frown that was suggestive of reading novels, a high caffeine diet and, I suspected, indifference to television.In the intervening spaces, a tale is told of our narrator's family - his famous aunts, his obsessive father, his quirky friends and the trip takes us through the 80s and 90s in a way which was, for me, measured out with highly familiar signposts. It's occasionally tempting to claim that overt chronicling is the cheapest form of deixis - and there are whole paragraphs in this novel which are that kind of exposition, ranging in subject from Euro 96 to the tribulations of Dustin Diamond - but I can't complain as I do it myself all the time. The world is the only song all of us know by heart after all.This is a funny book definitely - at one point a Liberal Democrat spin doctor is described as "prematurely bold" and I'm not sure it's a misprint - but it's very sad in parts too. It crams a lot of good things into its relatively small span, and you can't say more than that for a book... or indeed a life.
I really enjoyed this book I could at times feel his pain and his joy at growing up something we all have to do and the cringeworthy about the name of the all brights most families have a joke that is only funny to them and seems to follow them around I enjoyed the book went through the history of the times and was amusing how times have changed in a relatively short space of time these days the majority have a mobile not the minority will look out for more things to read by Joe stretch
An amazing book that reads like the autobiography of pop stars SHOULD read. This is the book about lack of success (not through lack of talent), yet is all the better for it. It's as close to the inside of my head as a book can be.
Nice story about growing up in a dysfunctional family