Alan Warner - Their Lips Talk of Mischief (3 stars)

Novel set in Thatcher's London is as funny and poignant as anything he's written

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Alan Warner - Their Lips Talk of Mischief

(Faber & Faber)

In the cold climate of Thatcher's London, Douglas Cunningham meets dissolute young writer Llewellyn Smith, who lives with his baby daughter and beautiful wife Aoife in an Acton tower block. Moving in with them and their extensive collection of Penguin Modern Classics, Douglas eagerly joins in with Llewellyn's schemes to make it big in the literary world, even as he falls in love with his new friend's wife. Rarely putting pen to paper, their ambitions soon break up against brute reality and alcoholic excess, and Douglas is forced to choose between this strange ménage à trois and his life back home in Scotland.

Warner has always been the contemporary Scottish writer most interested in literary style; combining slangy, stylised speech with a baroque phrasing and syntax, he is incapable of writing a dull book, and this is certainly as funny and poignant as anything he's written. Too subdued as a critique of Thatcherism though, and too superficial as a story of innocence lost, his artistry and invention can't disguise what is a fairly slight addition to an extraordinary body of work.

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