Nick Laird's debut novel Utterly Monkey was a real joy but for some reason I'd never got round to reading his next one. I saw it on a lunch time Waterstones visit and decided to give it a go.
The novel is built around a love triangle and is told from the perspective of David an overweight 30 something who spends his days in a dead end teaching job bitterly thinking about his missed opportunities and his nights writing scathing reviews on his blog (I shudder to think what he would have said about aha's Take on Me).
One day he bumps into an old art teacher and now famous artist Ruth, who he always had a crush on. He makes the mistake of introducing her to his christian, virgin , good looking flat mate Glover and watches in horror as the 2 fall in love, moving from flirting to seeing each other to engagement. At this point I was a bit confused s the title refers to Glover's mistake and not David's.
What then emerges is a bit of a modern day Othello. There is no murder or mass suicide but David, as the best friend ,on one hand offers support and a sympathetic ear whilst subtly doing all he can to undermine the relationship.
"David knew enough about jealousy; after its introduction, like some rapacious non native species, it spreads out and destroys , transforming the landscape for ever"
All of this is played in a world of opposites, David's failure to Ruth's success, his conversations with his parents and his life in London, Ruth's Bohemia and Glover's religious beliefs (which soon get modified when sex is on the horizon) and David and Glover's likely lads world of their flat with the shallow pretentiousness of the art world.
The two things that Laird does really well is firstly satire the art world, especially through a series of secondary characters but even better is capturing how smug and selfish love can be to someone stuck on the outside.
At the end of the novel you are clear that Glover has made a massive mistake, but that mistake is less an indiscretion that drives the plot along and has more to do with trust , choices, naivety and looking for support in exactly the wrong place.
You can buy Glover's Mistake here