Lauren Molyneux curls up with a good book to review the latest best sellers
All That Man Is
A lonely youth is forced to discover himself whilst on holiday, a personal trainer turned security guard reflects on the path that has led him to his involvement in a far from legal international operation and a successful billionaire finds himself adrift as he lingers on the verge of losing everything. All That Man Is presents the story of nine different men, entirely unconnected aside from the fact that they share a gender and are each facing the question: ‘What is a man supposed to do now?’.
Providing an enthralling take on modern life that perfectly encapsulates the existential crisis and the overwhelming feeling of unfulfillment which hits with the realisation of failed dreams, Szalay expertly balances dread with hope to produce a novel which is sensitive and unflinchingly real.
Progressing through the stories of nine entirely different male characters, we’re thrown deep into the complex psychology of each. This isn’t just a musing on modern life, a snapshot into the thoughts and feelings of a few men dotted around the globe, it’s a cohesive exploration of the male psyche.
Offering a small vision of life in the shoes of men who are each existing at various stages, All That Man Is perfectly encapsulates just that. A novel about male desire, lust, life, longing and failure, David Szalay’s fourth novel is both intense and intricate, throwing focus onto even the most minute of happenings in order to paint a detailed and textured masterpiece.
The Authenticity Project
‘Everyone lies about their lives. What would happen if you shared the truth instead?’
Clare Pooley’s chart-topping debut novel shares the lives and secrets of a group of unlikely friends, brought together via a social experiment entitled The Authenticity Project.
Once a successful artist, prominent on the social scene of East London in the swinging sixties, Julian Jessop awakes one day to find himself an old widower. With his days of wild parties and celebrity dinner dates behind him, he’s resolved to live out his remaining days shuttered up in his home, with his paintings and eccentric clothes the only things interested in keeping his company. That is until he has an idea that will help him to confront himself, and hopefully alleviate some of his loneliness in the process.
In a quest to become as ‘authentic’ as possible, Julian writes out some home truths about himself, and leaves his notebook on the table in a coffee shop close to his home. From there, The Authenticity Project finds itself in the hands of a host of people, all of whom submit their desires, secrets and truths to the notebook, and all of whom will be intimately connected as a result.
The Authenticity Project has great shelf appeal. But whilst it offers an intriguing premise, it unfortunately fails to deliver. Whilst Pooley aims to highlight the value in authenticity and honesty, her characters are largely underdeveloped and, ironically, lack originality. All seem to be playing out versions of a shallow stereotype, offering corny dialogue and cliched circumstances which lack creative thought and are poorly paced. Whilst critics have revered the novel for its uplifting story, warmth and humour, I was left disappointed with a novel which promised to be engaging, entertaining and a big success, but definitely missed the mark.