Saturday 6 July 2019

State of the Union

I love walking into your bookshop and picking up a book you've never heard of. Even better is when you take it home and read it very soon, and really quickly. 

So it was with Nick Hornby's latest, State of the Union. Especially when I saw that yellow cover. It's clearly about a marriage not going so well. A topic I've been quite familiar with in recent times. And then I read the back cover. Tom and Louise meet up in the pub across the road from their marriage counsellor just before they go to their weekly session. And have a drink. Sometimes more than one. An idea which is GENIUS. I wish I'd thought of that. My marriage would probably have ended up in the same place, but at least we'd have had a drink before the sessions. Might have taken the edge off some of the agony. 

State of the Union documents ten of these weekly meetings. We only see Tom and Louise at the pub, we don't see them in their sessions or at home or anywhere else. Tom and Louise talk A LOT for people going to marriage counselling. The book is essentially all dialogue. Some of it was uncanny, like a distant echo, words that I felt that I might have said, or have heard. There were even more parallels, Louise is a geriatrician, and her husband Tom a music critic. Not direct parallels, but close enough. 

As you'd expect from Nick Hornby there are insights into life and marriage, it's clever and witty, but true to life with moments of tragedy and quite a bit of humour.
"He doesn't have to watch it. He just has to not go on about how much he hates it."
"I had to watch it."
"Once. And only because you kept slagging it off without having seen it."
"So he's got to watch it once."
"And I'm sure if he does he'll respect my enjoyment and not make puking noises all the way through."
And no book can come out of the UK these days without mentioning Brexit. Anyone who has been married, or in a long term relationship, happily or not, will get something from State of the Union.
" ... We're married. It's different. We have created a whole life together despite everything. A language. A family. Some kind of understanding..."
I hadn't heard of the book or the tv adaptation (complete series already on ABC iView for those of us in Australia) before I found the book a few days ago. The series is pretty much the book word for word. Odd that the series is already out just as the book is released. Maybe the series came first? Nick Hornby does a bit of work with screenplays these days. Anyway, of course I've also now watched the series. It's delightful. Starring Rosamund Pike and Chris O'Dowd. 

State of the Union trailer

I read quite a lot of Nick Hornby's early work back in the day but for some reason lost the habit of reading him somewhere along the track. I know I have at least some of his books still in the house, I think I'll revisit some of them, and seek out the others.

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