From Publishers Weekly
"You are not perfect," explains the laddish, caddish Harry Chesshyre to his 43rd girlfriend, Emily, in the break-up letter that opens this Machiavellian relationship comedy. Throughout his quest for the perfect mate, the 32-year old Harry maintains a stable, committed relationship with his flatmate, the finicky, repressed Gerrard. When their ultra-womanizing friend, Farley, apparently commits suicide over a love object named Alice, they both decide that she is the only one for them. Their farcical no-holds-barred competition for her, including a drunken pub crawl after Farley's funeral, counterbalances Harry's romancing of Alice as he realizes she might be "the one." Throughout, the witty, loquacious Harry serves as a mouthpiece for over-the-top opinions about men and women, sex and love. While Barrowcliffe's style is thoroughly British, his cynical insights into the single male mind are universal, such as his Maxim-esque tactics for hitting on girls: e.g., Mr. Listener, Search and Destroy, or the Mallory Principle: sleeping with your best friend's ex-girlfriend for the same reason as one would climb Everest ("Because it's there"). Where the novel falters is just where Harry doesAthat is, in its inability to comprehend Alice as a person, not just perfection personified. The other female principal, Lydia, while a witty foil to Harry and Gerrard, is similarly one-dimensional. Although this debut doesn't have the characterization depth of Nick Hornby's novelsAand Barrowcliffe's humor is far more misanthropicAAmerican readers will still find Harry's romantic misadventures amply entertaining. (Jan. 7) Forecast: The current rage for cynical romantic comedies from across the pond should help propel sales. That Ron Howard has already bought the film rights also bodes well.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
In the spirit of Nick Hornby's bestseller High Fidelity (1996), Barrowcliffe's debut novel is a funny but dark look inside the hearts of modern men. Harry and Gerrard, two yuppies in their young thirties, share a messy flat in London. They exist in typical single lad fashion, in that they haven't let maturity get in the way of their endless beer drinking and girl-watching. And they are cynical about women. After the apparent suicide of a drinking buddy, however, they find themselves vying for the affections of the mysterious woman who drove him to his grave. It's no friendly competition: From the start, the two friends are plotting against each other with cutthroat fervor, a harrowing path that, at different points, takes one to jail and leads the other to homicidal behavior. Alice, the worthwhile goal of their rough-and-tumble game, is beautiful, successful, witty, and always about 10 steps ahead of her suitors. Barrowcliffe's story is genuinely suspenseful, even though his clever narrator undercuts the tension with nonstop asides, backgrounders, anecdotes, and philosophy. Lucky thing he's funny. James Klise
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