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:
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.