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Utterly Monkey: A Novel (P.S.) Paperback – January 3, 2006


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Product Details

  • Series: P.S.
  • Paperback: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; First Edition, First Printing edition (January 3, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060828366
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060828363
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,316,861 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Laird—poet, former lawyer and husband of Zadie Smith—debuts, lad-lit style, with this sometimes entertaining story of childhood friends whose paths diverged radically and then reconverged. Danny Williams is a well-paid (if deeply unenthusiastic) lawyer at a prestigious London firm; Geordie Wilson, his boyhood chum from Northern Ireland, is "officially an unemployed labourer" who's just showed up on Danny's doorstep desperate for a place to stay. Geordie's in trouble with the Ulster Unionists back home, primarily because he has a sack full of their cash; Danny's been told he needs to go back to Northern Ireland to deal with a corporate takeover. Geordie joins forces with Danny, more out of idle curiosity than a sense of urgency (though the Unionists are planning something nasty). Laird's writing is clear and amusing, and both his protagonists are likable. But their aimlessness impedes the building of any narrative momentum, and the book's climactic scene is as rushed as it is contrived. The novel is well intentioned, clever and occasionally quirky—but the whole feels like less than the sum of its parts. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

In this lukewarm "lad lit" debut, Irishman Danny Williams leaves behind his Belfast past to become a solicitor at a London law firm. Life goes along swimmingly until the night old high-school pal Geordie Wilson, on the run from IRA thugs, turns up at his door. The two men's lives become entwined, as Danny battles office politics and pursues romance with enigmatic office-mate Ellen, and Geordie tries (unsuccessfully) to stay out of harm's way (turns out the ?50,000 his girlfriend gave him were earmarked to finance a terrorist operation). Laird, who was born in Northern Ireland and practiced law before turning to poetry, then prose, might have done better to have his novel revolve around gritty--and infinitely more interesting--sidekick Geordie. Laird's writing is consistently lively, as when he compares the atmosphere of a Belfast pub to the embrace of "some love-starved aunt, one who smokes heavily and shouts." But his plot is overcrowded--including a bomb threat, a tepid sex scene, and a scatological incident readers best discover for themselves. Allison Block
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Pashminky on August 13, 2009
Format: Paperback
Curious to read Nick Laird after noting that he was on the Booker longlist for Glover's Mistake, this title was sitting on the library shelves just waiting to be read. While it does fall into the lad/caper formula, this book is a much finer piece of writing than other examples of the genre. He has so many wonderful, comical observations of everyday life that I found utterly delightful. Light, easy and very funny - don't listen to the grumpy reviewers - it's pure formula but very well executed.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By allthatfall on April 17, 2006
Format: Paperback
Laird enters a crowded field of Belfast writers, and though he lacks Colin Bateman's ability to contrive wild plots, R. McLiam Wilson's lyrical brilliance, and the bitter real politik of the dramatist Gary Mitchell, Laird provides a readable addition to the literature of "The Armed Peace."

Depicting disaffected, drifting Prods in the cultural landscape in which the Catholic nationalists are perceived to have won, his plot largely depends upon generic, predictable tropes--the jaded young London lawyer who has a change of heart that motivates him to sabotage a predatory corporate takeover, and the same jaded young lawyer locked into a bitter (though seemingly arbitrary) oedipal struggle with the firm's senior partner. But the major contrivance is this same lawyer falling in love with the firm's exotic and beautiful young lawyer--first feeling in awe of her, bedding her only to find that she has recently ended an affair with his bete noire senior partner, irrationally and brutally rejecting her, and eventually recognizing his error and reconciling with her. (One wonders and never knows what she sees in this lackluster drudge.) Very ho-hum and predictable.

Perhaps the larger disappointment is with how generic the Belfast landscape is. Although Laird is an Ulsterman and chooses the most emotionally charged an dangerous setting for a large section of his novel (the 12th of July!), this lawyer and his love cruise through the Belfast environs without ever seeing a bonfire, a police barricade, an armed standoff complete with watercanons and shockwalls, or any of the threatening mess that tends to mark this week each year. No, this couple motor around the area as if it were a forgetable spring day, and bar-hop through Belfast without seeing a paramilitary roadblock, any of the many shops annually boarded up by its owner in anticipation of the 12th, or even smelling the faint odor from a city full of bonfires.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By John L Murphy TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 28, 2006
Format: Paperback
With Nick Laird's novel 'Utterly Monkey', the post-Agreement depiction of Northern Ireland has arrived in print--and it has received the 'Rooney Prize for Irish Literature', the back cover informs me prominently. Its appearance as a paperback, has the addition of a feature I've never seen before in which there's not only background and interviews and two of his similarly prize-winning poems...but the contents of his desk, his most played I-tunes, and "Poems Attached by Blue-Tac to the Door of My Study" the latter three as of July 4, 2005. Laird's novel follows the dyspeptic detective send-ups of Colin Bateman, the considered meditations of Glenn Patterson--both Northern writers also continuing their explorations of their province as the Troubles subside, and like Robert MacLiam Wilson, he loves shenanigans enmeshing his likable protagonists who seem to take quite a bit from their creators.

What distinguishes Laird? First of all, he's over a decade younger than this trio. Born in 1975, by the time he came of age in Cookstown, the worst of the violence had begun to for the most part ease. Like MacLiam Wilson, he went to Cambridge. Unlike his predecessor, he did not drop out--shades of Ripley Bogle--but went on to a year at Harvard and six years practicing law in London. He chucked it all and took up writing. Now, I have to admit, since he's married to Zadie Smith, I'm not sure when this relationship started and how it influenced his decision. Certainly, however the situation, Laird has, like his wife, taken on today's London and, in his case, mixed it with a glance back at his native corner, still struggling to shake off the paras--now using drug moneys to fund their continued grievances and, in this novel, to carry off--on the Twelfth of July 2004--another 'spectacular'.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By David G. Forgue on September 29, 2006
Format: Paperback
I really enjoyed this book. It is not a work of genius. It will not change your life. Nevertheless, it was interesting, funny, and even a little exciting. In all honesty, if you don't laugh at the story that sparks the fist fight between Geordie and Danny, you would never have liked this book anyway. I look forward to Laird's next novel.

I would take with a grain of salt reviews (such as the booklist review above) that do not understand that the IRA is a Republican organization, and all of the Irish characters in this book are Protestants, and Unionists. That error means they missed one of the interesting things about this book. It is one of the rare instances of a book set, in part, in Northern Ireland told from the Protestant perspective. That is a serious gap in a reviewer's understanding. Ditto all of the "lad lit" descriptions. Lad mags, at least, are for 20 something kids trying to feel sophisticated. The point of Danny's redemption is not meant for those kids. They won't understand it. Only after you've had the opportunity to sell your soul for work a few times will it make sense. Hence, the work cannot possibly be for "lads."
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