20 March, 2014

Meeting the English by Kate Clanchy [Biddy, Highland Park]

Meeting the English is the first novel of award-winning poet, Kate Clanchy. Set in a stifling London summer in the 1980's, it explores the experiences and relationships of Struan Robertson and the extended family he comes to live with. Struan is a gauche, gifted but socially awkward young Scotsman persuaded by his ex-English teacher to spend a gap year in London caring for a 60-something playwright, Philip Prys, who has been incapacitated by a stroke.

Struan finds it difficult to assimilate with the dysfunctional Prys family and is bemused by the way they live. In time, however, he moves from his position of outsider and overcomes the challenges of the differences of the members of the Prys family to learn to know these "English" people. Few, if any, are truly English. Philip and his colourful second wife, Myfanwy, are Welsh, his current wife, Shirin, is an Iranian refugee and the apparently "frightfully" English literary agent, Giles, confesses to being a Dutch-born Jewish refugee.

Clanchy's characters are full and multi-layered. Despite exploring deep issues throughout, the book is witty and maintains the frothy feel of a light, summer read.

Author: Kate Clanchy
Publisher: London, Picador
Date: 2013
ISBN: 9780330535274

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