We Had It So Good

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by Linda Grant (Scribner; $25)

In another departure for Grant, there is a firm emphasis on fun.

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Grant can be playful and with this novel she has really let her hair down. The chapters on Stephen and Andrea's life as hippies are particularly amusing, with their tales of growing marijuana, wearing velvet flares and stashing contraband chocolate biscuits "bourgeois". For Stephen — and the reader — life is an ambiguous journey. Stephen is not a despicable person, although by rights he ought to be.

Good things happen to him, irritatingly good things, constantly. Success seems to fall into his lap.

On his passage to England as a cabin boy, he ends up sharing some pilfered petits fours with Bill Clinton. Twenty years later, he bumps into the Blairs on the dinner party circuit, down the road from Granita. History leaves him with a Ready Brek glow. This would be a very boring novel, though, if Stephen's life really were that perfect.

He repeatedly courts disaster and escapes at the last moment.

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He has no real plans for his life — except that he wants to dodge the Vietnam draft — but ends up on a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford. Once there, he understands nothing and is sent down for defacing a library book. Grant is building up an important fictional oeuvre that offers a fresh and perceptive commentary on our times. I would not be surprised to see this new novel on shortlists in You can find our Community Guidelines in full here.

So Good (B.o.B song)

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We Had It So Good, By Linda Grant | The Independent

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