The hero of James Wood’s midlife novel spends too much time with his implausibly well-organised thoughtsAlan Querry is a moderately successful property developer from Northumberland with a couple of largish problems on his plate. First, there is his company, provider of his comfortable life and payer of his elderly mother’s care home bills, which is teetering on the edge of trouble. Second, there is his daughter Vanessa, an emotionally frail philosopher at an American university who is struggling under the weight of depression. However, as his name suggests – the extra “r” didn’t stop me from reading it as “query” – perhaps his greatest problem is his character, which seems at times to be little more than a repository for high-minded questions mostly to do with happiness and acceptance. Alan Querry thinks, and thinks, and thinks: in bed, in the car, in front of the blue screen of his laptop. How, the reader wonders, did he ever get anything built, let alone find time to meet his accountant? Suddenly you think you know why his business might be inching towards collapse.
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