- Paperback: 316 pages
- Publisher: Riverhead Books; 1 edition (August 6, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0641692617
- ISBN-13: 978-0641692611
- ASIN: 1573229385
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 110 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,207,111 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Frog King Paperback – August 6, 2002
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A mediocre book leaves you cold. But an almost-great book--that's enough to make you gnash your teeth. In his debut novel, The Frog King, Adam Davies maddeningly fails to recognize and develop the terrific material he has at hand. Harry Driscoll, raised in privilege and Ivy League-educated, is a peon at a prestigious New York publishing house--in fact, the house is called Prestige--and he hates it: hates the menial labor, hates the intellectual pretension, hates the political jockeying necessary to advancement. Driscoll is terrific on the disappointment peculiar to the overeducated and underemployed: "All those years of schooling (Yes I speak Old English!) and resumé building. (Yes I interned on Capitol Hill!) didn't pertain at all to the life that was waiting for me." The insider peek at New York publishing is terrific, too, if scant: "There's a joke at Prestige that The New Yorker will publish any story that ends with the word 'home.'" Davies devotes most of his energy, however, to Harry's somewhat mystifying relationship with his girlfriend Evie. He loves her madly, but he's sleeping around. When he loses her, he continues to lie to her even as he tries to win her back. Davies may have some kind of emotional profile in mind for Harry, but he fails to put it across to the reader. Fortunately, the well-observed social comedy and nicely exaggerated workplace farce more than make up for the rest of the novel's shortcomings. --Claire Dederer
From Publishers Weekly
Apparently the only reason to endure the low wages and lower prestige of an entry-level publishing job is that someday you can write a book about it. The latest entry in this subgenre is an intelligent and amusing but exasperating debut featuring a very self-centered leading man. Harry Driscoll works for peasant's wages as an editorial assistant at Prestige Publishing, a prominent New York City house. At the notoriously stuffy Prestige, he behaves like a college freshman showing up late, spiking his coffee, losing manuscripts and trying to prove that he's smarter than his co-workers. His favorite game is a revealing one: in a daily vocabulary contest with his one friend at Prestige, he resorts to making up words. Harry has lucked into a relationship with Evie Goddard, a pretty fellow editorial assistant who talks like an "overeducated auctioneer on speed," but he can't stop ogling other women long enough to appreciate her. He begins an affair with a powerful editor from another publishing house, but in typical loudmouth fashion, he manages to sabotage himself once again. Evie eventually tires of his behavior (readers may wonder what takes her so long), leaving him a few pages toward the novel's end to realize the error of his ways and try to win her back. Davies, who worked for Random House, makes some juicy observations about the backbiting publishing industry, but there's hardly any room for them, since Harry doesn't give much space on the page to anything but himself.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Top customer reviews
I read this book in less than a week. It was utterly compelling, somewhat edgy at times, yet the story was not boring. It is a love story in the sense that Harry can not admit to Evie he loves her. Instead, he says "Viva la Evie!" He cheats, though in his mind for the right reasons. He wants to provide a better life for her so he figures the ends justifies the means. I think Harry epitomizes many of us who have worked in entry level jobs where you can't seem to get anywhere. He became jaded, thus his sliding backward into sophomoric behavior. He is poor, he has no money and is often hungry. This novel speaks to everyone, I think. A somewhat twisted, yet neurotic at times, love story, a story about a guy who is trying to get by and ultimately ahead, and the wrenching pains of growing up finally and realizing that you want to be somebody and stop sabotaging yourself. I recommend this book to anyone. It is quirky, smirky and was a thought provoking read.
Davies does an excellent job of describing Harry's love for Evie. He accurately conveys the subtle details that make up that love. Their relationship feels real and that makes it hard to watch as Harry repeatedly jeopardizes it.
While Harry isn't always a completely likable character (he can be selfish and cruel), I still found myself rooting for him as I waited to see if he would save his relationship, and himself, before it was too late.
On top of his woman problems, Harry hates his job at a publishing company and seems to sabotage everything he does there.
Harry frustrated me so much! I wanted to give him a little smack to wake him up. Frustrations aside it was hard to not like him, as he is quite charming. I couldn't put the book down, I just had to keep reading and hoping that things to work out for him in the end.
The above is our hero on page 16.
There seems to be a lot of fiction showing up lately in which the narrator is a supposedly wised-up dweeb in his 20s whose endless screw-ups are much less charming or interesting than the author must intend; another common factor is that this narrator has close access to the most beautiful girl in existence, a model or somesuch, who more or less treats him as a gay confidante -- though we're meant to be in no doubt that he is in fact hetero. The alleged narrative tension lies in the unfortunate reader waiting forever for this hero to get his act together careerwise and assert himself for better or worse with the unbelievably beautiful girl.
Often he has a secret -- his mother or brother died, or maybe his dog Spot, and the fact that he's in secret mourning is meant to render him a tragic figure of sorts. This is why he keeps screwing up and/or getting fired. Because he's sad. When the beautiful girl discovers this key to his character she'll view him in an entirely new light.
i'm looking forward to reading more by this author.