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Jaded
ISBN 0-452-28583-6

By Lucy Hawking
Review by: Michelle Humphrey

06/06/05

Ever take weeks to read a book under 200 pages, simply because you lingered on the passages? That describes the kind of book Jaded is, the slim debut novel by Lucy Hawking, which is anything but slim in its humor and collection of tatty and grandiose characters. The gist: Will Gadget, a money-wired, repressed London banker, reveals the amorphous and emotional mess he truly is when he stumbles onto the foul dealings of Tellcat, a prominent client of his bank. With an unaccustomed frenzy, he believes his life is in danger and contacts his friend, Mac, an A-list mercenary who hides Will in a Yogic community until he can sort things out. Will spends a few chapters in transcendental oblivion among a tribe of peace-lovers who are anything but at peace (note the bitter “aging beauty” who stalks him). Meanwhile, his friends investigate: not Mac, but Will’s bohemian quasi-girlfriend Min and college pal Jemal.

It isn’t the surreal and somewhat formulaic plot that revs the novel, but rather the authentic, self-enhazed characters. Min is the unloved French heiress who grows up into a quirky nomad, insightful of everyone’s motives but her own. Jemal is the mild-mannered and clever TV host of a reality show who searches for an out from his unwanted life. Appearing in offbeat cameos is Marie, the bantering transvestite; Christophe, the girlfriend-oppressing champion of the people; and litter-obsessed Ambrose de Beaufort who explodes over a wayside Coca-Cola can like a character out of a Monty Python sketch. Throughout, the author employs her gift for conjuring personalities in a single plainspoken and discerning sentence. Early on, she says of Min: “In the curious way of people who have never really had a home, she had a knack for establishing herself in other people’s lives and making it seem like she had always been there.”

Epiphanies, in Hawking’s world, happen as quickly as they do in fairy tales (especially for the impossibly hammy womanizers Bertrand and Mac), and everyone finds love and a persistent freedom from angst, but the journey follows a just-right amount of buffoonery and the storytelling is warm and evocative. A fun debut like this one usually tags the author as “up-and-coming,” but with Jaded Hawking is already there.

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