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Friends Like These by Victoria Routledge - Book Review

Title
Author
Publisher

Friends Like These
Victoria Routledge
Time Warner Paperbacks

Fiction-Net Rating 2 Star Rated Book

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Cover Story

Ever found that missing Malteser – all over the seat of your linen Jigsaw suit? Realised you remember the words to everything the Human League ever wrote – but not your seven times table? Photocopied your face out of boredom on a holiday temp job? Worried that you ALWAYS look like Jo Brand in your friends' photos? Yes?

Well, meet Rachel, now out of University but not quite in the Real World, doing one of those "Look, no hands!" jobs in a PR firm. When her best friend Alex persuades her to join in with Laura and Mike's engagement party in a Lake District cottage, she agrees with mixed feelings. For even Laura's meticulous arrangements haven't taken account of actressy Caroline, Rachel's bete noire, whose mysterious behaviour around the groom-to-be rings bells that Rachel hoped never to hear again.

We Say

This is the debut novel from (when it was first published) twenty-four year old Victoria Routledge. The word 'Friends' appears in its title and in fact, the book owes much of its premise to the US comedy of that name. The setting might be London and the Lake District but the themes, like the TV show, are group friendship and coming to terms with each other's annoying habits. Also, dealing with the tangled web of relationship histories between the seven of them.

Unfortunately, Friends Like These is neither as funny nor original as the comedy series with the shorter title. I couldn't claim to be bored by it but neither was I gripped – the story just sort of carried me along. To be honest, I think it was fairly easy to predict what was going to happen almost from the beginning. The so-called 'shock revelations' were easily spotted, leading to impatience on my part to get to the dramatic bits. On the positive side, these moments were good – once the crockery started flying, the dialogue came to life. It was like watching a bad soap opera – you know what is about to happen but, at the moment of truth, it becomes compulsive all the same.

The most interesting character is the nasty Caroline. However, she isn't in this book enough to develop into more than a villainous caricature. At one point, she describes one of the other characters as "bland" – I have to say I agreed with her. In fact, I thought all of the rest of the characters could be described in the same terms. Perhaps Friends Like These is just too nice for its own good – depicting a world that is naïve and simple, where the bad are beaten and the good get married.

Review by: Rachel Taylor

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