Book Review

Getting Colder by Amanda Coe

Photo on 13-03-2015 at 17.27

Getting Colder by Amanda Coe is a great, contemporary novel. It is fun, quite haunting in places and it is well-observed (though quite traditional) middle-class generational/property/bereavement/inheritance fare. A good example of it, though.

The central family (something which, for me, seems a far more American than a British literary trope) are the two children of Sara, who left them and her husband for a tempestuous second marriage with a brash and successful playwright, Patrick. The narrative cuts between the present, just after Sara’s death, and the years that followed her meeting Patrick. In the present, the middle-aged protagonists deal with Sara’s will and a thirteen-year-old daughter being groomed by an older man, whilst a journalism student arrives at Patrick’s house in Cornwall to interview him for her thesis, then stays for many months.

There is a lot of tension to the plot throughout, and the multiple perspectives (Patrick and Sara through letters and diary entries, Sara’s children and the student through free indirect discourse) allow a picture of the central marriage and central figure – Sara – to gradually develop. Her children resent her for abandoning them, but her son is pleased her marriage to a wealthy man gave him the opportunity to be privately-educated, and her daughter seeks closure through premium-rate phone-lines to mystics.

As a collage, which is what I suppose it is, the novel presents enough different types of writing to be stylistically interesting (including one extract from the infamous 1980s play Patricks’ entire reputation relies on), and offers enough intriguing plot to keep one reading.

However, it is a type of novel I’ve read before, and though it was a good one, the tale of someone dying and their family being brought to a crisis because of property laws and a possible new love interest isn’t that original. YET to criticise myself, what narrative is original? None of them are. Just because I’m less interested in family sagas than I am in flaneur-type pieces shouldn’t prejudice me against it. Getting Colder is a strong and interesting novel, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a shortish contemporary read.

It’s got social media and stuff in it. Feels very up to date. Good stuff.

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