Book review: Serious Sweet

AL KennedyI wasn’t sure if I just didn’t click with this angry experimental novel, if I missed its subtlety, or whether it just needed a serious edit. Serious Sweet by AL Kennedy is about one day in the lives of two troubled Londoners, Jon and Meg. The set-up is intriguing. First we are shown a family on a Tube train, the baby daughter is scarred, the family Arabic in appearance. Next we meet Jon, a civil servant. Pages are dedicated to his rescuing of a baby blackbird tangled in twine. At first, I was touched by the delicacy of his situation and the anxiety of the hovering mother blackbird. Then I became bored with Jon’s internal monologue. Thirdly, we go with Meg to an undefined gynaecological appointment. More internal monologue.

The timeline is confusing. Everything supposedly takes place in the course of one day but there is so much remembering of past events by Jon and Meg, separated by short scenes of seeming unrelated people, at times I lost the will to read on. Why did I? Because it is AL Kennedy and I loved her edition of short stories, All the Rage, so I was prepared to stick with it. But the stop-start stream of consciousness thoughts were often boring and inexplicable. I missed and forgot multiple references. Either the author or publisher or both were not sure how to describe this book – politics (both Jon and Meg rant), self-help, alcoholism recovery, romance or a spy/thriller. I was almost expecting a terrorist bomb. The mystery actually hangs on whether Jon and Meg will meet. They do, finally [at 46% on my Kindle] meet by letter.

It is a long book, 528 pages, which could be so much shorter and tighter. There were moments of clever, beautiful description and thoughts which made me smile, some made me chuckle, but there were others which made my eyes skip to the next paragraph. I finally got it at around 75% and read the last quarter quickly.

Read my review of AL Kennedy’s All the Rage here.

If you like ‘Serious Sweet’, try these other UK political novels:-
‘Saturday’ by Ian McEwan
‘The Ghost’ by Robert Harris
‘House of Cards’ by Michael Dobbs

‘Serious Sweet’ by AL Kennedy [UK: Jonathan Cape] Buy at Amazon

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Will Jon & Meg meet: SERIOUS SWEET by AL Kennedy @Writerer #bookreview via @SandraDanby

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