A surprisingly surefooted debut

Patrick Down on Wed 05 July 2000
We know that David Baddiel is funny. And it isn't perhaps too much of a surprise to discover he can translate this humour into writing. It is perhaps more of a surprise that he can sustain this over a whole book, but what really struck me was the quality of his characters, especially the three main female characters in the book.

Given this is a David Baddiel book, it's no great surprise to discover it's about sex. And Jewishness. And the trials and tribulations of being on the dole. Gabriel Jacoby is in love with his (richer, better looking more successful) brother's wife. He is also unemployed, and living with a flatmate who goes insane very early on in the book. (It is a tribute to Baddiel's well-roundedness as a novelist that this is treated with real pathos and not purely as a comic device). It all looks pretty bleak for Mr Jacoby until it transpires that his brother's wife has a sister, Dina. Who has just come over from the USA. Where, it turns out, there is a press fedding frenzy after her husband went crazy and shot several people dead on a paintball ranch. If all this sounds pretty implausible, then it gets sillier.

With a sum total of bugger-all in common, Dina and Gabriel nonetheless somehow end up getting together, a happening which grates on his brother no end. "It's almost like incest.". he remarks. Gabriel replies "No. It would be incest, if I, your brother, were sleeping with you. As it is, I'm sleeping with your wife's sister."

It all comes to a head when the two brothers' Grandmother dies towards the end of the book, and Ben confesses to an affair with Gabriel's rather mad flatmate's Jewish friend.

If all this sounds ludicrous, then it's worth picking up the book to see how well it has been done. There is a genuine depth to it which I didn't expect from the man who presents Fantasy Football League, but best of all, it's very very funny.
Rating: 8.0

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