4th Estate Books July 2017
Martin Gilmour and Ben Fitzmaurice have been best friends for 25 years, since their days together at Burtonbury School.
They are an unlikely pair: the scholarship boy with the wrong accent and clothes, and the dazzlingly popular, wealthy young aristocrat. But Martin knows no one else can understand the bond they share – and no one else could have kept Ben’s secret for over two decades.
At Ben’s 40th birthday party, the cream of the British establishment gathers in a haze of champagne, drugs and glamour. Amid the politicians, the celebrities, the old money and the newly rich, Martin once again feels that pang of not quite belonging. His wife Lucy has her reservations, too. There is something unnerving in the air. But Ben wouldn’t do anything to damage their friendship. Would he?
As the end of March approaches I can confidently say this is a favourite book of the year. Detailing the friendship of Martin and Ben and told in a then and now format, events come to a head at Ben’s 40th birthday party. This was an addictive read set in a world of affluence and glamour. A world that both the reader and Martin sit on the periphery of. Ben is ‘that’ friend for Martin, the one who makes him feel good, cool even and this is a friendship that Martin has nurtured and will not let go, at times his desperation for Ben’s friendship felt tangible.
Told predominantly in the first person voice of Martin in a then and now format, the story is given extra depth via Martin’s wife, Lucy’s journal entries documenting her first meeting with Martin and their subsequent relationship. This book was a real character study of Martin and what can only be described as his toxic and obsessive relationship with charasmatic Ben. Martin especially was a fully formed character with an interesting childhood story which shaped him, but without exception the characters were well developed although not all necessairily likeable.
The writing is sharp and this book was genuinely hard to put down – and that is a major achievement right now when the news and world events are so distracting and my concentration has been poor. A definite recommendation from me, but tell me, have you read this one?
About the Author
Elizabeth Day is the author of three previous novels. Her acclaimed debut Scissors, Paper, Stone, won a Betty Trask Award and Home Fires was an Observer book of the year. Her third, Paradise City, was named one of the best novels of 2015 in the Evening Standard. She is also an award winning journalist and has written extensively for the Telegraph, The Times, the Guardian, the Observer, the Mail on Sunday, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Elle.
Her memoir, How to Fail: Everything I’ve Ever Learned From Things Going Wrong was a Sunday Times bestseller and has been described as life-changing by critics.