London Fields - Martin Amis (Released 1989) I think I unintentionally threw myself in at the deep with Amis’ work, picking his longest and most complex work! But London Fields was certainly a worthwhile read, even though I didn’t fully feel like it was ‘finished’ when I had read it.

The first thing to get your head around when reading this is the bizarre structure. The narrator himself is an author, and part of each chapter is dedicated to him detailing the story he is writing - the story that is happening right infront of him. It is essentially a story within a story. Once you’ve got over that, there’s the whole thing that you get told the ending before it starts. The story centres around the fact that Nicola Six is planning her own murder, in fear of growing old. It is when she meets vile and crude Keith Talent and long suffering Guy Clinch that it all sets in motion.

The plot is long and complicated; it goes back on itself, ties itself in knots and plays tricks on you. But it is so satisfying to read; his prose is detailed and each character is so fully realised you start to believe they are real. All the characters should be repulsive and pitiful; all of them create so many different personas it is hard to keep up with. But it is a mark of Amis’ talent that none of them cross the line into parodies, although they are very amusing at times.

Whilst all this drama unfolds,there is quiet disrest in the background of the threat of the upcoming Millennium and nuclear war. It would have been interesting to hear more about this as it was never fully dealt with, but maybe there would have been too much drama. It was more disconcerting than anything.

The book's title could have many meanings, but I considered it to be one of those mentioned in the book. Force fields of attraction and repulsion. Although there is plenty to disgust readers, it is the kind of disgust that makes you want to read on, and you need that to get through a book this size!

Rating: 8/10

"London Fields" is a 1989 novel by Martin Amis, a piece of literary fiction that includes elements of near-future science-fiction, social realism and black comedy. It was widely critically acclaimed, and after a 25 year delay, is in production as a motion picture.

I bought this book at a library book sale over a year ago, and I admit that it sat on my shelf, staring down at me for all of that time. I think it took half of that time for me to realize that it was written by Martin Amis, not Kingsley Amis, and that these were in fact separate people. My copy was hardbound, making it seem intimidatingly long. It even smelt long. I put off reading it because I knew it was literary fiction and thought it would be hundreds of pages of titled English people talking in drawing rooms. Fortunately, as I soon found out, it was not that.

The novel is basically a love triangle: precognitive femme fatale Nicola Six knows the date of her murder, and wonders whether low life conman Keith Talent or slumming high class Guy Clinch is going to be the one to do it. These three characters make up the core of the novel, with other characters mostly being their hangers-on and victims. Another character is a semi-authorial-insertion character, novelist Samson Young, who appears in interludes between the chapters. Keith Talent's sole ambition (other than surviving the blowbacks from his various criminal schemes) is to appear on television playing darts. Guy Clinch's somewhat more amorphous desire is to escape his wife and insufferable toddler son. Nicola Six manipulates them against each other as the novel progresses, while mentions are made of a rare solar eclipse, climate change and impending nuclear war.

At the very least, I will say this book is not dull or stuffy. I don't know enough about literature in 20th century England to exactly categorize it, and many of its thematic references are already dated (it will be interesting to see if the movie updates the setting and changes the threat of superpower nuclear war to the threat of nuclear terrorism, for example). I don't know quite what agenda this book has as far as England's class system, and whether its portrayal of Nicola Six is sexist, or is rather a parody of writers like Norman Mailer. I have no idea why this book taught me as much about darts as Infinite Jest taught me about tennis. What I can say about this book is it lets you in on the ground floor. The first sentence of the story proper is "Keith Talent was a bad guy". We know what we are dealing with here: a minor criminal whose misadventures are easily graspable, even if all the connotations of them are not. Nicola Six and Guy Clinch are likewise introduced. Although there is quite a bit about the interactions between the three that I am not understanding, at the literal level, the book moves along, its action involving and clear. And after that has been delivered, it is up to the reader to find what they want from the book.

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