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White City Blue by Tim Lott - Book Review

Title
Author
Publisher

White City Blue
Tim Lott
Penguin

Fiction-Net Rating 4 Star Rated Book

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Cover Story

Frankie Blue has always wanted to be liked. At school, the most important lesson he learned was that in order to fit in he must sometimes treat the truth with the respect he thinks it deserves, ie. none at all. Hence his nickname, Frank the Fib and now, at thirty, his nickname has become who he is and what he does. He's become one of White City's most successful estate agents. His fibs help sell himself and help him sell dreams, thin air, empty space. All his school friends have also realised their potential in one way or another. Arch-narcissist Diamond Tony spends his days in front of mirrors as a hairdresser. Solid, dependable Nodge has replaced his dreams of foreign travel with the reality of journeying across London behind the wheel of his black cab and Colin is a computer geek, more interested in downloading than getting loaded.

These are Frank's friends. They hold him up, they're where he fits but more and more, they feel like a history that hasn't yet found its way into the past because Frankie is bored with Colin and Nodge and Tony and football and pulling and pints and E and pretending that anything else is a compromise. So he's decided to carry out the 'great betrayal' - he's going to get married, to Veronica, a pathologist who spends her life looking inside people to see what's gone wrong. It's a talent she has with the living as well as the dead and it makes Frankie nervous.

Frankie, as always, wants to fit in and coupledom has become the norm but from the moment he reveals his nuptial plans, the whole shape of his life is thrown into sharp relief. He begins to see it as a series of choices between his mate and his mates, security and freedom, truth and lies.

White City Blue is the darkly funny tale of one man's odyssey, by way of curry house and pub, towards a greater understanding of the infinite mysteries of true love and male friendship.

We Say

Women write about trying to find Mr Right and men write about how to hide from these women. They also write about the importance of a finding safety net in the form of your male friends. White City Blue is totally faithful to this format. Annoyingly, it's also very, very good.

The characters aren't likeable but they're real. On the surface, Frankie Blue and his three lifelong friends are selfish, lying, misogynistic pigs. Scratch the surface and you might find out that they are something else entirely or you might find out that this is exactly what they are. Tim Lott opens the characters up through the memories of Frankie – he takes us back to their school days and the events in their youth that formed the men. Lott writes about childhood with conviction and honesty – and as we all know, there is nothing more severe than the cruelty of children.

The only real female presence in the book is Veronica, who threatens to upset the status quo by marrying Frankie. She's perceptive and intelligent but unimportant in many ways. This is a book about men and as that, it is a complete success.

The revelations at the end of White City Blue are an inevitable consequence of the past and come as something of a relief. Dramatic tension builds slowly but the dialogue is sharp and the prose intelligent so it never feels dull, even if not much is actually happening.

White City Blue is plotted strongly with a clear vision in mind and this results in a satisfying, thought-provoking read.

Review by: Rachel Taylor

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