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Whatever Love Means by David Baddiel - Book Review


Whatever Love Means
David Baddiel

Fiction-Net Rating 5 Star Rated Book

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Cover Story

Like most people, Vic Mullan - once described by his best friend Joe as "a man whose sense of social responsibility is exhausted by pulling over to let an ambulance by" - can remember where he was and what he was doing on the day of Princess Diana's death. Yes, he can remember it particularly well - he was at home, beginning an affair with Emma, Joe's wife.

The opening section of David Baddiel's second novel charts the history of an intense and passionately sexual liaison set against the background of the most hysterical time in recent memory but as the months wear on and life and love return to normal, so things become more complex between Vic and Emma. And then, tragedy - a real, local, small-scale tragedy, as opposed to a national, iconic, mythological one - intervenes.

We Say

For a book by a comedian, Whatever Love Means is surprisingly dark and intense. It has its funny moments too but these are confined to the early chapters before it all goes horribly wrong for the characters involved.

Looking back, it was certainly a strange thing that happened in this country around the time of Princess Diana's death. Most people were walking around with a sense of, what felt like, real heartbreak and loss for weeks. David Baddiel's novel digs beneath the surface of this reaction and uses it as a catalyst to explore the nature of love and grief on a more genuinely personal level. It's a big subject but Baddiel is clearly unfazed and tackles it with conviction and depth.

There are some strange characters in the mix and if I were to describe them to you, they would sound unconvincing. There's Vic, a man obsessed with the idea that illness is glamorous, Joe, a shy scientist and Tess, a woman with a man's way of thinking. David Baddiel brings these characters to life, not least because there are times when you love them and times when you want to scream at them. It's certainly worthwhile getting to know them.

The plot of Whatever Love Means will leave you open-mouthed in amazement. There are twists and surprises that I would defy anyone to be able to predict. There is none of the obvious sign posting that often occurs in lesser novels. David Baddiel seems able to credit his readers with the knowledge that real life doesn't provide these convenient warnings and that sometimes, stories too are better without them.

This is one book I can seriously recommend.

Review by: Rachel Taylor

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