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Meeting the English by Kate Clanchy

Sarah Broadhurst's view...

“Literary Giant seeks young man to push bath chair, own room in Hampstead, all found, exciting cultural milieu. Modest wage .Ideal ‘gap year’ opportunity. Apply …” And so young 17-year old Struan leaves Scotland for the first time in his life and arrives in London in the heat wave of 1989. The job is to look after Philip, famed playwright, recently paralysed by a stroke. His old Hampstead mansion houses his third wife, two teenagers from his second marriage, the second wife herself, and his literary agent. Young Struan’s teacher also arrives. With teenage angst, eating problems, drugs, homosexual and family relationships, plus caring for Philip, Struan is thrown into a life never before encountered and all the lad really aspires to is being a dentist. This is a tongue-in-cheek hoot; the stuff of a good West End farce. Hugely enjoyable.

If you like Kate Clanchy you might also like to read books by Mat Beaumont, Will Wiles and Tom Rachman.

Who is Sarah Broadhurst


Meeting the English by Kate Clanchy

LONGLISTED FOR THE 2014 DESMOND ELLIOTT PRIZE Literary Giant seeks young man to push bathchair. Own room in Hampstead, all found, exciting cultural milieu. Modest wage. Ideal 'gap year' opportunity. Apply Prys Box 4224XXC. 'It's only England,' said Mr Fox, 'just a few hours on the train. You can always come home.' 'Ah've never been though,' said Struan, 'never been South.' 'Then you should,' said Mr Fox, 'you really should.' So it is that Struan Robertson, orphan, genius, and just seventeen, leaves his dour native town of Cuik, and arrives in London in the freakish fine summer of 1989. His job, he finds, is to care for Phillip, dumbfounded and paralysed by a massive stroke, because, though two teenage children, two wives, and a literary agent all rattle round Phillip's large house, they are each too busy with their peculiar obsessions to do it themselves. As the city bakes, Struan finds himself tangled in a midsummer's dream of mistaken identity, giddying property prices, wild swimming, and overwhelming passions. For everyone, it is to be a life-changing summer. This is a bright book about dark subjects: a tale about kindness and its limits, told with love. Spiked with witty dialogue, and jostling with gleeful, zesty characters, it is a glorious debut novel from an acclaimed writer of poetry, non-fiction, and short stories.


'With wit and zest, Clanchy creates social comedy out of teeth-clenching situations ... Clanchy's trenchant, often very funny prose also shimmers with sensual pleasures ... Meeting the English is a richly conceived, original and very entertaining novel.'

'A comedy of manners with a sharp edge ... With its cast of artsy, highly strung, badly behaved north Londoners, Meeting the English feels like an updated Iris Murdoch novel, with sharper haircuts and more Laura Ashley furnishings.'
Independent on Sunday

'A charming comic novel with an appealing lightness of touch'
Literary Review

'Lacerating social observation mixed with Shakespearean comedy powers Kate Clanchy's first novel ... her agility with language makes the sentences shimmer.'
Sunday Telegraph

'Meeting the English is a comedy of manners and a comedy of morals ... [it] has a frothy charm.'

'An exceptional first novel ... Clanchy switches multi-viewpoints adroitly ... she has a wincingly accurate eye for social comedy, a vivid descriptive sense, and profound understanding of her characters. This is a delectable read - it should certainly be on one or more of this year's awards lists.'
Daily Mail

'What unfolds is a long, hot summer with more than a little Midsummer Night's Dream about it. The gloriously heady heat, high-running tempers and emotions are offset by the cool lightness of Clanchy's prose, shot through with a wonderfully refreshing comedic breeze. Meeting the English is an utter delight.'

'a charming and comedic coming-of-age novel ... very funny indeed; a literary novel that manages to pack an irreverent punch and take a wry look at the fashion and sensibilities of the late 1980s.'
Bookseller a bracingly trenchant romantic revenge comedy which ends in an orgy of poetic justice, its theme the overthrow of tyrants, its hero a seventeen

-year-old Scot and its setting Hampstead in the long hot summer of 1989. -- Books of the Year Times Literary Supplement Meeting the English is powered by an addictively forward-marching narrative ... Clanchy displays a verbal inventiveness that unlocks the alarming, delectable newness of the world Struan encounters. Times Literary Supplement Kate Clanchy's sharp and charming first novel Meeting the English is ... an accomplished and lively work, good-natured - kindness is particularly prized - but also underwritten by a keen understanding of the way we live ... Clanchy, who is a distinguished poet, writes prose to relish ... this is a strong and rather gallant novel of family life and what (if anything) can be done about it. Financial Times Meeting the English provides many pleasures. Clanchy is a fine describer and she evokes the hot North London summer with skill ... With its instances of mistaken identity, family dispute and various human foibles, Meeting the English operates squarely in the tradition of Shakespearian comedy. The Times 'Utterly enchanting; naughty, funny, evocative
Patrick Gale

-- Patrick Gale, author of Notes from an Exhibition Every so often, an author bursts onto the scene with a freshness and originality that make the reader give a metaphorical three cheers. Kate Clanchy, who has won awards for her poetry, is one such; her debut novel is funny and insightful and her empathetic, law-abiding hero is full of blinding common sense, a less wet version of Adrian Mole ... Clanchy either knows a lot about seeing the funny side of a depressing domestic situation or she has an acute eye. Either way, you'll want to hear more from her. Country Life A riveting read Oxford Times

About the Author

Kate Clanchy was born and grew up in Scotland but now lives in England. She is a popular poet: her collections, Slattern, Samarkand and Newborn have brought her many literary awards and an unusually wide audience. She has also written extensively for Radio 4 and reviews and writes comment for the Guardian.

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Book Info

Publication date

19th June 2014


Kate Clanchy

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Picador an imprint of Pan Macmillan


320 pages
Interest Age: From 18 years


Literary Fiction
eBook Favourites

Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)



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