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My Legendary Girlfriend
by Mike Gayle

Category: Fiction / General
352 pages; ISBN: 0-340-71816-1

Rating: 5/10  (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Dale


Nick Hornby.I'm sure Mike Gayle is fed up with seeing those two little words whenever his work is discussed but he doesn't help himself by setting his opening scene at a football match.

That's not to say that Gayle measures up to Hornby, not with this one at any rate.Where the latter can make the most mundane situation sparkle with wit and insight, Gayle only brings out the mundanity.

The plot, such as it is, revolves around Will Kelly, an apathetic English teacher who is still lamenting the loss of his girlfriend Aggi three years earlier. The action,for want of a better word,takes place over a single weekend and consists of telephone conversations and Will's self-pitying ruminations in roughly equal proportions.This scenario demands considerable skill on the part of the writer to keep things fresh and interesting and Gayle falls some way short.

Part of the problem is that Will is the only three dimensional character.The supporting cast are either stereotypes like his laddish mate Simon and Platonic crutch Alice or completely unbelievable like Kate, a nerd's fantasy woman.Aggi herself, when we finally meet her is a massive letdown, the first legend made entirely from cardboard.

Similarly the pop cultural references are trite and obvious - Richard Gere in An Officer And A Gentleman (p247), Platoon (p212), Blackadder (p279) - doing little to illuminate the text. And the endless descriptions of the self-inflicted squalor of Will's flat remain resolutely tiresome and unamusing.

I don't want to damn this debut novel completely.Gayle's prose has a lightness which always keeps things readable and there are occasional passages where Gayle manages to rise above the banality and offers a fresh take on twentysomething angst.There may be better to come.


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