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Tim Lott’s new novel, When We Were Rich, published today by Scribner, revisits the main characters of Whitbread-winner White City Blue. Opening just before the Millennium, in Blair’s Britain, we are reunited with Frankie Blue and old mates Nodge and Colin, with Diamond Tony lurking in the background. It ends in 2008, when the world and the economy are in a completely different state.

Frankie, in 1999, is an estate agent in a booming economy with an excess of credit, Colin a computer nerd, complete with cutting edge phone and an understanding that social media is going to change the world, Nodge has recently come out and Tony’s disgraced himself. These are people of their time, bitterly funny, brutal, slightly grotesque, money and status-obsessed.

Lott’s millennial landscape is a London teetering on the edge, fuelled by expectation and uncertainty as the new century looms. New Labour is seemingly entrenched, the economy is booming, the possibilities of new technology and social media are yet to be mined; immigration and the climate are issues of note and there’s an underlying tension in the city, the feeling that everything might just go pop.

Lott’s skill as a writer is in the minutiae – his landscape vividly drawn, littered with references to brands, labels, appearance, pop culture, the descriptions sometimes so overloaded that it’s stifling. And that seems intentional: there’s no escape from this overwhelmingly surface world with so many issues bubbling away beneath.

While I loved White City Blue, this book I prefer more, partly because this is my London, a place wonderfully familiar and yet not. When We Were Rich is smart, entertaining, funny, yes, and yet it deals with issues that still burn, that remain so distressingly relevant, all these years later, in our post 9/11, Brexit mess of a world.

Read it.

 

When We Were Rich | Tim Lott | Scribner | hardback | £16.99 | 27 June 2019

Also see White City Blue which features many of the main characters in this book

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Acknowledgements: This review is published as part of the publisher virtual book tour. Many thanks to Anne Cater and to the publisher for sending a book proof and jacket image. Please check out the other participants on the tour. All opinions are our own. All rights reserved.

 

Also of interest:Helga Flatland’s study of A Modern Family’; ‘By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept’; ‘Permission by Saskia Vogel‘; ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised‘; ‘The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone’; ‘The beauty of Tom Cox’s personal landscape‘; ‘Call Me Star Girl’;Falling from the Floating World‘; ‘Blood Orange’; ‘Lisa Ko’s The Leavers, Dialogue’s brilliant debut; ‘We should all be feminists‘; The not-so-invisible woman: 150 greats in their own words’;RW Kwon’s The Incendiaries’; ‘Beautiful words – The Language of Secrets‘; ‘Beauty in translation – Roxanne Bouchard’s French Canadian noir‘; ‘How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original “Penguin Ten”‘; Dorothy L. Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday – Romek Marber for Penguin Crime (book covers we love).

Select Q&As/interviews: ‘Charlie Laidlaw’; ‘Lilja Sigurðardóttir’; ’Tom Cox’; ‘Vanda Symon; ‘Gunnar Staalesen’; Some like it hot – the joy of Carole Mortimer, award-winning novelist‘; Gina Kirkham;John Fairfax’; ‘Ian Ridley’; ‘David Stuart Davies’.

 

This review is © 2019 by The Literary Shed. All rights reserved. All opinions are our own. We welcome your feedback and comments. If you wish to reproduce this piece, please do contact us to request permission. Thank you so much.