We Need to Talk
By Jonathan Crane
What it’s about?
It’s 2019 in Sudleigh, a market town not far from the south coast. It’s not a bad place to live, provided the new housing development doesn’t ruin it, but most residents are too caught up in their own grudges, sores and struggles to notice.
Gap-year Tom is cleaning toilets but finding unexpected solace in his Chinese house-share. Former lounge musician Frank wants to pass his carpet business to his nephew Josh, killing the boy’s dream to become a chef. Sharp-elbowed phone-sex operator Heather will stop at nothing to become manager of the golf club. Miss Bennett keeps putting her house on the market when she doesn’t want to move.
Do they all know how their lives are linked? And will creative writing tutor Tony, hard at work on his ironic pseudo-children’s book The Jazz Cats, ever pluck up the courage to leave his unappreciative girlfriend Lydia?
Meticulously observed, with flashes of wicked comedy, We Need to Talk offers a jigsaw puzzle of unwitting connections for the reader to assemble. The finished picture is an unflinchingly honest portrait of multi-jobbing, gig-economy Middle England on the eve of Covid.
What I think:
This is such a beautiful book about mundane every day life.
Each chapter features a different character going about an average normal day. Like a jigsaw, the stories overlap in small ways that build up a picture of a community.
The book is a anchored in a post-Brexit, pre- Covid world. The hyperreality is created with snippets of new headlines and overheard conversations.
There are no big, dramatic set pieces just day to day frustrations. Behind the closed doors of the suburbs people are struggling to be creative, to build relationships and to improve their communities.
Stand out characters for me were Tom, a gap- year student waiting for his acceptance into university. Living by himself for the first time he is juggling jobs and renting rooms in shared houses. Detatched from his family, he is building new relationships and finding that sometimes your family is the people you choose.
I also enjoyed Tony, a creative writing tutor who is struggling for inspiration. His relationship with Lydia has stalled and she clearly loves her cat more than him. Their failure to communicate is darkly comic. I felt the frustration behind their conversations as Tony tries repeatedly to find time to talk to Lydia. Lydia is obsessed with establishing Sudleigh ‘In Bloom’ and has grand ideas to bring the town together through the power of gardening.
Each of the characters and their stories is a fully developed short story that fits into a coherent whole. This is such a clever read. There will definitely be characters amd situations that every reader can emphasise with.
If you fancy reading We Need To Talk use the links below:
Lightning Books: https://www.eye-books.com/books/we-need-to-talk
Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/35KhFEi
Amazon US: https://amzn.to/3gVEs58
About the author:
Jonathan Crane completed an MA Literature and a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Essex, where he is now an academic in Creative Writing. He also works with charities to design and deliver writing programmes in prison and community settings.
His previous writing includes fiction and academic papers. Formerly a musician/composer, he has released two albums. We Need to Talk is his first novel.
He currently lives in Hampshire.
Thank you to Lightning Books for my gifted copy and to Damppebbles Blog Tours for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour.