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1001 Book Review: London Fields by Martin Amis

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Murder mystery where the victim manipulates the murderer…

London Fields by Martin Amis
Published in: 1989
Reviewed by: Book Worm
Rating: [★★★]

Blurb from the back of the book: There is a murderer, there is a murderee and there is a foil.

Everyone is always out there searching for someone and something, usually for a lover, usually for love. And this is a love story.

But the murderee – Nicola Six – is searching for something and someone else; her murderer. She knows the time, she knows the place, she knows the motive, she knows the means she just doesn’t know the man.

Book Worm’s Thoughts: I read the blurb and thought yes! this sounds like a unique and fun kind of novel promising a twisted narrative, unfortunately the book didn’t live up to the blurb.

This book is very much a book of its time and I found a lot of the humour with regard to racism and rape made this an uncomfortable read. This may be my fault and I may be reading too much into it but the age of #metoo has really shone a light on the appalling way victims of rape and sexual assault were treated in the 80s & 90s police reports were not followed up on and in a lot of cases the women were made to feel like they were to blame for what happened. So for me having a central character who goes around boasting about the women he has forced into sex (which is not the same as rape apparently as they didn’t report him) just doesn’t appeal to me.

What did appeal to me about the book was the way the narrator was part of the story he meets his characters in the pub and begins to interact with them on a daily basis. As he gets to know them better his idea of a straightforward murder story goes of the rails and he becomes caught up in their lives in ways he never expected.

There are a lot of funny sections and I enjoyed the word play and the casual mentions of several classic writers whose names you would not expect to come up in the scenarios that they did.

Nicola Six was an interesting character as she was the only female character who seemed to be in control of her own life and because she was the ones pulling the strings. The various men might think they were in control but really they were all being manipulated for her purpose.

When he was not “chasing skirt” Keith was also an interesting character I liked his working class background, the way he genuinely appears to believe that crime is an acceptable way of improving your situation in life, I like the way he would speak random words and how he commentated on his own life and any sporting situation, I also enjoyed the way he thought about numbers – given any number he would work out the best way to get to that number using a dart board it was interesting to watch his mind work.

I also liked the over the top way the London of the 1980s was portrayed, the conmen conning conmen, the builders you couldn’t trust and the surfeit of burglars. I could relate to all these things and see how they had been taken to a humourous extreme. If only the book could have avoided all the sexual connotations and stuck with darts and pubs I probably would have enjoyed it more. That said if I had read this before #metoo I may also have appreciated the sexual humour, who can say…

Quotes – “Only parents and torturers and janitors of holocausts are asked to stand the sound of so much human grief.” page 33 and already the way humour is used is beginning to feel uncomfortable.

“”Indeed, burgling, when viewed in Darwinian terms, was clearly approaching a crisis. Burglars were finding that everywhere had been burgled. Burglars were forever bumping into one another, stepping on the toes of other burglars. There were burglar jams on rooftops and stairways, on groaning fire escapes. Burglars were being burgled by fellow burglars and doing the same back.” Page 276 I did find this section amusing.

In summary I don’t feel that this book was for me but I can appreciate that it is cleverly constructed and does make the reader think.

Who would like this? I would recommend this to anyone who likes black humour and won’t be upset by the use of rape and sexual assault as a tool for humour. Just because this book wasn’t for me doesn’t mean it won’t be for you.

We want to hear from you! Have you read this book? What did you think? 

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Gail #

    Thank you for the review. I am in the middle of reading London Fields and one of the things I am finding prescient given it having been written in the 80’s, is the background theme of both natural and manmade diasters that threatens to overwhelm the day to day events of the book. The “crisis” is never explained but is evidently political and nationalistic in some way and the weather and the sun are both behaving very strangely with monsoons and heatwaves in London. It does remind me of climate change disasters bearing down on us while “we” go about our day to day lives as best one can. I will comment further once I have finished reading the book.

    Like

    January 13, 2019
  2. Tracy S #

    I listened to this, and I think it affected my perspective differently. I took it as a tongue in cheek detective noir-style, and every character was a caricature. I actually liked this, because it had more layers than I expected. And I like a book with an unreliable narrator- which we certainly got!

    Like

    January 17, 2019

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