Monday 26 November 2007

Rumours of a Hurricane by Tim Lott

As a American expatriate I am always on a mission to understand the native inhabitants of this fair island. I am in equal measure delighted and befuddled by their behaviour.

My husband finds my behaviour amusing but is uncertain if my actions are uniquely me or something endemic to the the entire population of the US of A. Hard to say, really.

Part of my daily life is spent trying to navigate the waters of the cultural differences between the Americans and British.

A while back a member of the Thames Valley American Women's Club (of which I was on the board as their newsletter editor), gave me this book. I finally found it at the top of my pile and decided to see if I could fit it in before I had to get started on the next book group selection.

Rumours of a Hurricane is set in the tumultuous period between 1979 and 1990 in southern England, specifically London. Margaret Thatcher is being elected to Prime Minister as the novel begins.

The main characters are Charlie Buck and his wife Maureen. They are climbing the social ladder and navigating the rocky seas of the massive cultural change that occurred in Great Britain during the 1980s including the destruction of the labour unions, the rise and devastating fall of the property market, the effects of the implementation of feminism and the emergence of a belief in the dream that any man/woman could run their own business. The decade is easily one of tumultuous change.

But Charlie and Maureen are just trying to make it through. They start the decade in their early 50s. Their marriage is flawed to begin with leaving the couple to turn away from each other in the face of the changes . Charlie brings a suitcase of family history and a drinking problem to the journey which impairs his ability to cope with the changes. Maureen regains her power too late to repair her marriage having made too many bad choices. Their son Robert is lost in the chaos.

The title refers to an hilarious (although only in hindsight) event when a BBC weather man reported that rumours of hurricane in southern England were highly exaggerated which turned out to be unequivocally untrue. In fact, the hurricanes wrecked widesprea havoc. This is used in the book as a metaphor for the tendency during that decade to underestimate impact on people's lives of the events happening all around.

This book delivers a searing and insightful look into the psyche of the British people, particularly the inhabitants of the southern half of the island. I had tremendous sympathy for the characters and found their struggle to be real, horrifying and incredibly sad.

The novel is funny and heartbreaking. Lott is a talented writer who captures characters in a humane and vulnerable way without descending into sickly sweet sentimentality.

I couldn't put the book down. I read it morning and night in every moment of free time. My Facebook addiction suffered. My blogging suffered. My family suffered (not really - just seeing if you're paying attention)!

If you seek an understanding of the British, read this book. If you want a funny look at the 1980s in Great Britain this is the book for you. I highly recommend it! I am now going to go away and find more novels by Tim Lott.

1 comment:

Janell said...

That sounds like a good read. Tim Lott sounds very familiar to me for some readon. I'll have to go and see what else he's written.