Book: A Certain Chemistry by Mil Millington

It seems that it doesn't work very well to write a comic novel about having an affair

Mil Millington
A Certain Chemistry
Hodder and Stoughton, 2003
ISBN: 0340 82114 0
UKP 10.99
372 pages

I enjoyed Mil Millington's previous book, Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About, quite a lot and looked forward to this one. Alas, I like this one rather less.

A Certain Chemistry is about Tom Cartwright, a ghostwriter, and an affair that he has. There are nearly as many jokes in it as there are in TMGAIHAA, but the humor doesn't work particularly well because the book is about an affair. Cheating on the long-term girlfriend one lives with is certainly suitable material for a novel, but it doesn't seem to be suitable material for a comic novel. Mr Millington doesn't imply that cheating itself is funny (he takes it quite seriously), but the things that are funny in the book are so closely bound up with the affair that you can't really separate them. There are plenty of laughs here; I just didn't enjoy them all that much.

It's conceivable that one of the points of the book is just that effect: the immediate juxtaposition of something that's pretty funny with something that's not at all funny. But there's evidence that that's not the case. Mr Millington has God do some of the narration and God explains Tom's affections biochemically. Since Mr Millington has God reduce Tom's affair to a mechanical problem, it seems that he's minimizing the unpleasantness of Tom's affair rather than playing it up.

Also, It turns out that using God as a narrator from time to time is about as elegant a novelistic technique as you'd think it would be.

Posted: Sat - April 3, 2004 at 01:14   Main   Category: