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Review: e by Matt Beaumont

e: The novel of liars, lunch and lost knickers, or so it says on the front of my copy. Amazon shows another edition, which sums up “insincerity, backstabbing and bare-faced bitchiness”. Either way, it’s a bit racy to stick on my door at work to promote reading to the students.

On Friday morning I was supposed to be going training in Horsham.  After an early start and heavy morning traffic, I pulled up in the station car park feeling dazed and confused, especially when faced with the Southern Railway ticket machine, which often persuades me to buy a more expensive ticket than I need 😦

Also, although I’d set out with the destination “Horsham” programmed into my mind, I hadn’t taken note of the exact location of the venue.  All I remembered was that I had to turn left out of the station.  Now where exactly had I saved that email on my phone??

While flipping between trying to catch a 3G signal and capture a valley full of  deep crimson trees through mist:

I missed - I got these three random animals instead

I missed – I got these three random animals instead

trying to read e by Matt Beaumont in between times did little to alleviate my confusion or reinstate my sense of calm.

This is a novel written in the form of emails and set in an advertising agency, where the characters are several firework inducing permutations of greedy, shady, lazy, hardworking, competent, incompetent, talented, tyrannical, immature, uptight, and more.

It does take getting used to at first.  Having all these emails fired at you is like that feeling of first going into work when you’ve been off for a few days.   You’re jumping constantly from one first person narrative to another.   But the strength of the characters keeps the show on the road, and once you get used to it, you realise that the way the author is able to control his flit through the different voices is genius.

Equally virtuosic is the plotting, and the jokes, and the way these three elements complement each other.  The characters’ desires drive the plot, out of the plot fall the jokes, but also what you think of as jokes actually turn out to be crucial to the plot.

To illustrate, about three quarters of the way through I laughed out loud at the following missive:

“I am with Pinki at the moment trying to shoehorn Gloria Hunniford into the Freedom creative strategy, so I’ll sit out the vindaloo.

I am afraid Gloria’s mature profile is a less-than-perfect fit with the 18-24 target that Freedom are chasing.  This afternoon Pinki approved a campaign featuring Richard Blackwood and a Busta Rymes track, which puts our problem into perspective.”

Now it’s hard to imagine what sort of book could possibly contain a run up to the previous paragraph, and where this book could possibly be going.  But believe me, this book was confident of both.

And it was fun.  It was more than fun, it was laugh out loud funny.  There were villains, goodies, baddies, excitement, tension, and one of the tensest will-they-won’t-they finishes I can ever remember reading.

For the second time this week I was taken back to the funny, exciting reads of my childhood.  It made me reflect on how good a novel can be when it just concentrates on doing the simple things well.  Even when being told through a relatively new medium.

Incidentally,  I never made it to the training.  Just short of Horsham, I got a phone call to tell me that the trainer was off sick.  “Cancelled – off sick” seems to be the week’s other running theme.

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14 Comments

  1. I love Matt Beaumont Denise! E Squared is just as funny, and I also raced through The Film, The Book & The T-Shirt. Although immature and a bit exaggerated his books are so much fun :o)

    Rather fitting while reading a book like this that you mission all the way to [insert place quite far away] only to be told the trainer is off sick when you’re almost there!! Hope the rest of your day wasn’t too stressful.

    • I’m glad I’ve found someone to share my appreciation!

      My favourite characters were Harriet and Pinki but it’s the mix of characters that made it work so well.

      I didn’t mind hanging around at all with such a good book to read.

  2. I haven’t read Matt Beaumont though if it is as funny as you say I’ll add it to the pile by my bed. At least your journey wasn’t a waste, and now you’ll have to get another novel to fill in the next long train trip.

    • It was great being able to read my book instead of going to work! I’m going again on Nov 5th – Firework Night.

      It really was a funny book and I’m told e squared is just as good.

  3. What exactly is training in Horsham? I can’t work out if this is some sort of sporty thing or educational or perhaps both.

    Book sounds great.

    • It’s such a boring training thing! I was supposed to be learning how to programme next year’s GCSE Options into our database.

      It is true that the staff where I work are an unusually sporty bunch. For example, the town’s fifth strongest man is a member of our staff. Lifting cars and pulling trucks and everything! But I am not a sporty member of staff.

  4. Denise you have finally given me something to comment about on your page since I don’t have small children or read the same as you 🙂 I do like the mystical look of the misty photo you took, but 3g I don’t even think you can get that in this country anymore.

    • Awww I really appreciate that we find time to like each other’s blogs anyway. I find keeping up with yours and reading your points of view really interesting.

      Sometimes I am just so pleased that I can even get 3G!! If the phone drops out of 3G altogether I am stuck with GPRS! That is like another century.

  5. Denise. I love your point of view! I worked in an advertising agency for 13 years and yes, those narratives seem disjointed, but ooh! as you say….. the talent! I have got to read this one as well. My husband downloaded the “Chvrches” cd. And I have yet to go to the bookstore (where is the NYC Strand when I want it?) to get the other books you reviewed. But I will. BTW, the photo is inspired! And my own LD’s homecoming dance went off well. Her dress, lovely and the ones who faked the Gatsby look, looked silly.I still would love to see that disco ball fabric though. Maybe for Prom?

    • I imagine your daughter might have inherited your eye for what looks right? Well done daughter!

      I met someone who worked in an advertising agency but got laid off – like TV it seems to have become an extremely cut throat industry… just right for a mad satire!

      Are you glad you got out of advertising?

      • Yes. The people at my agency were so intelligent and interesting. I think, as I have said before, a person could not possibly work at a more exciting place, Mainly because of the blend of wit,talent,creativity and consequently fun to be had day-to-day. However, there is an amazing amount of stress, lots of money changing hands and if a client goes…well, so does your job!

      • That really came across in the book and is what gave it a place in my heart among all the laughs.

        Apart from the obvious villains, most of the characters were good natured and a couple of the employees were so resourceful and had such integrity that you rooted for them against all the odds. This made the conclusion so exciting – it was only a pitch for goodness sake! It wasn’t like anyone was going to die… but it felt like they would.

      • We all felt that way in Advertising. Like it was life or death. Then when/if sanity ever took over, you would say “It’s only an ad!” “What is this: ‘Situation Survey’?” True section in Marketing Plans, Situation Surveys.

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