5 Jan 2011

Review: "London Fields" - City of lies

"London Fields" is one of those books that I have had waiting for me for a loooooong time. Like a really long time. i remember seeing it on a friend's shelf about five years ago, then I bought it probably about a year ago and I finally started reading it last week. And then it went fast because I completely lost all time and priority to this book. It is cool. It was published in 1989 but apart from the odd mention of leg warmers and the political situation I never felt that. It seems like it could have been written last year, it felt somehow modern and it is cool, so cool.

The plot is really complicated and it thickens as you turn the pages. The narrator, Samson Young, is a writer with a heavy writer's block and a bad health. He is also very unreliable and keeps mixing up his own life with the story that he is trying to tell. A love story, a murder story, a mystery, a thriller. And - he tries to convince - the utter truth. It is the story of the murderee Nicola who knows that she will die on her 35th birthday and who ventures out to meet her murderer. In a smoky pub she meets Keith Talent - whose talents including small time crimes, violence, cheating on his wife and playing darts - and Guy Clinch, a rich man with a snobbish wife and a violent toddler. Samson Young gets his hands on Nicola's diaries and from then on he chronicles the action that plays out among Nicola, Keith and Guy as she entangles them in her web of lies to get them to play the parts she has laid out for them.

Capturing all of the details in this amazing book is impossible in a blog post. I had a hard time keeping track of it all as I was reading it but that was actually part of the attraction. It made me lose myself because I had to concentrate to follow the action and though none of the main characters are really likeable, they are all intriguing! Nicola has all men in her thrall, they seem unable to resist her and she uses her power, yet she is constantly somewhat sad. Keith is a crook and a thug with no regards for other people who will do anything to become a local/national dart champion - even if it means sacrificing his friends, wife and child. Guy is basically naive and lets himself get caught up in Nicola's web, he has no backbone, no resistance. Samson Young is... difficult. A man close to the end of his life who has been disappointed too many times. None of them are truthful, all of them are egoist. Combined they make a powerful cast who had me confused about the ending until the very last page.
I will definitely be reading more of Mr. Amis's novels because this was a great pleasure to read!


  1. Glad this book was well worth the wait. Great review :)

  2. Wow, this sounds fascinating and complex! I've never read Martin Amis before, but you've made me want to check him out.

  3. You should, this is a really amazing read. I think I am going for The Rachel Papers next :-)

  4. Hi Willa! Thank you for stopping by my blog! I've never heard of this book, but it does sound really good. I'm surprised it never got made into a movie, I can definitely see a movie plot in the description. I'm surprised I've never heard of this one growing up, but thank you for sharing!

  5. Great review, and a fantastically complex novel. I've just finished it (http://bit.ly/rjfmSa) and I'm still getting to grips with it!