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The faithful coupleTHE FAITHFUL COUPLE opens in San Diego, in 1993, where twenty-something Neil is trying, somewhat half-heartedly, to chat up a girl he’s met in the hostel in which he’s staying. He’s unsuccessful, as he’s more interested in Adam, the young man sitting nearby, obviously eavesdropping. The girl wanders off, but Neil and Adam’s friendship begins. They embark on a road trip together and the events of one single night, and the decisions they make, serve to shape their relationship over the next eighteen years, binding them in a conspiracy of silence, shared secrets, remorse and regret.

From the very beginning, Miller sets up Neil and Adam as rivals. While to their American peers, the two young men probably appear very similar – university educated Brits, in their twenties, bumming around California – in reality, Adam and Neil come from very different backgrounds. Adam is privileged and entitled, resembling a ‘low rent Romantic poet’, Neil, in contrast, is from a much more humble background, his expectations of what life will bring, comparatively low. Despite this, Adam notes that they are ‘similar yet different’ and that Neil is a person that he could measure himself by.

In California, initially at least, their rivalry takes the form of horseplay and the telling of tall tales, in which they assume other roles and lives, from hairdressers to masseurs. However, this quickly develops into a more dangerous game when the two men compete and egg each other on for the attentions of the very young Rose at a campsite in the Yosemite Valley.

 

Up till then their rivalry had been playful and polite, like a tennis knock-up with no score, kept in check by joint enterprises, curiosity and affection. This evening it was overt and raw. Rose was the contest more than she was the prize. Somewhere else, on another night, the discipline would have been arm-wrestling or Trivial Pursuit.’

 

At the heart of The Faithful Couple lies the relationship between friendship and guilt, as seen through Neil and Adam’s changing perceptions of that one event, both over time and in retrospect. Whereas, in 1993, the two men do not really understand what they have done, as time passes and they become more successful and have relationships and families of their own, the way in which they view that night alters, possibly as their own moral codes change, leading them to seek to understand what happened, and why, from the distance of time.

The Faithful Couple is predominantly about male friendship, though, a subject surprisingly too often overlooked in contemporary modern fiction. More than that, it is a love story, a celebration of male friendship in all its guises, based on a love that is, in many ways, stronger and more abiding than any other that the protagonists experience in their everyday lives.

Without a doubt, The Faithful Couple is a very welcome follow-up to Miller’s extremely successful first novel Snowdrops. Although slow to start, the striking and evocative language, littered with pithy summations of character and location, coupled with the author’s quiet and intelligent observations of the changing economic and social landscape of London, in particular, up to 2011, create and sustain our interest.

This is a beautifully written book and a thoughtful and thought-provoking examination of male friendship.

 

The Faithful Couple by A.D. Miller • Published by Abacus 4 February 2016 • paperback £8.99 • ISBN: 978-0-349-14058-2

 

This review is published as part of the Abacus blog tour. For the other participants and reviews, please see the following poster:

 

 

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Image and text credits: Images courtesy of Grace Vincent, publicity manager at Little, Brown. Quotation text: Copyright © 2015 by A.D. Miller.

 

Also of interest:An Alaskan Epic – Rosamund Lupton’s The Quality of Silence‘; ‘The beauty of Sara Taylor’s The Shore, a breathtaking debut’, ‘“Amethyst and flowers on the table”, the beauty of Sufjan Stevens’ Carrie and Lowell, a review‘.

 


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