Friday, 8 March 2013

Miserable in Croydon

Lost and Found by Tom Winter
I am just going to write a quickie about this book that I requested on recommendation, laughed over the first page so kept reading but was just annoyed by before the first chapter was up. The only intriguing aspect was the plot line, mostly because of my philosophy course, because here we have two people living unexamined lives, so it then begged the question, are these lives worth living?
Carol is unhappily married to a man who turns out to have cancer, so she chickens out of leaving him. Albert is a lonely postman (we don't wear those hats any more by the way, his uniform is from the 1950s), spending 40 years mourning his wife. A life spent unhappily (according to Socrates that is) is of necessity an unexamined one, since people do not wish harm to themselves and therefore, if they reflected upon their situation would do something to alter it. Neither of them seems to have done anything to change things for quite a long time. The process of their chance 'encounter' with each other does seem to finally be bringing about some reflection, maybe better late than never, but that's not really what's wrong with the book.

It would have taken the author about ten seconds of research to discover that, firstly post is delivered by Royal Mail not the Post Office, hasn't been called that in god knows how many years, and more importantly that we do not have little rooms in each office where we store dusty bags of undelivered mail. All undeliverable or returned mail is sent to a processing centre in Belfast and not handled by individual offices or mail centres, so there is no way that Albert would be sidelined into a little back room and told to sort dead letters for disposal. And yes, it would be a sackable offence to remove mail from the office and take it home, and a postman of his experience would never consider doing such a thing, no matter how curious he might be (and by the way, just to reassure readers,  mostly we don't have a second to spare to be curious about the contents of anyone's letters).

Next awful thing about the book, the parade of terrible lazy clich├ęd characters:
overworked distracted manager with clipboard,
self-absorbed best friend who drinks weird herbal tea and must therefore bake inedible things using oatmeal,
overweight angry lesbian teenage daughter,
overly studious superior teenage daughter,
air-headed next-door-neighbour with misogynistic husband,
smarmy private doctor,
narrow-minded religious mother,
bullying next door neighbour,
and not one, but two over-idealised deceased loved ones. 

Then the author makes Albert do something very mean and spiteful, just so totally out of character, and if it hadn't been so close to the end I would have abandoned it then. He then seems to make Albert fall ill, as if for no other reason than to bring in the social worker to cheer him up a bit (And another thing, they wouldn't give him a Royal Mail coat as a retirement gift. Uniform belongs to the company and is only worn by employees and should be returned if you leave since it could be used to defraud people by pretending to be a postman.) He ties it all up neat and tidy in the end, pairing everyone off with new loved ones, except poor Albert who writes letters to the studious daughter and that somehow makes his retirement content and makes up for a lifetime of loneliness. So no, not really a whole lot of life examination going on. Not very often I do a total hatchet job but there you go. An unremarkable book.

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