The Sunday Salon – Then We Came to the End
Joshua Ferris’ Then We Came to the End should be billed as ‘the novel for anyone who has ever worked in an office’. I finished reading it today and it was well, interesting, certainly not ‘hilarious’ as emblazoned in quotes on the spine from the Observer but still laugh out loud in places and smile inducing in others, it’s more of a bittersweet story about the people you work with everyday in the office and how the claustrophobic working environment can turn us all into bitter people who still at the end of the day need each other. About how we can marry ourselves to our jobs and hate ourselves for it.
Set in an advertising agency in Chicago at the beginning of this decade, the agency is in financial trouble and people are beginning to get laid off, the threat of ‘walking the Spanish’, the co-workers term for getting made redundant, overhangs each story thread, in a way this book is like a collection of short stories with the overlaying linking theme of the office and the people who work there. There are stories about office chairs, totem poles, disgruntled ex-colleagues about to go postal, depression and failed office romances, you hear each story as you would in any office, through second, third, more hand gossip, around water coolers, in offices, by the photocopier. Each story in a way ties up together towards the end.
Narrated by one of the office workers, you never have much of an indication who the narrator is but for most of the book you get a sensation that you, the reader are one of the office workers and you’re hearing the gossip first hand. The narration does change tone though in a section dealing with the back story about the boss with breast cancer, where it tells the story more directly, I think I’d have preferred to have heard the story through the back channels of gossip as well but it does tie up again at the end, possibly but still a little confusingly giving us an idea of who the narrator is.
Well that was my reading for today, it’s also the end of my latest book in my Richard and Judy’s Bookclub 2008 reading list. I’ve been keeping my own personal ‘best book’ list out of what I’ve read from the list so far. it’s actually been pretty hard to judge between them, as they all are by their virtue of being on the Richard and Judy list, very good books, however this is my up to date rankings.
A Quiet Belief in Angels by R.J. Ellory – every page grips you, scares you and tears at your heart.
- The Rose of Sebastopol by Katherine McMahon – a very close second, it is deeply and beautifully researched invoking the sites, sounds and smells of the Crimean War.
- Random Acts of Heroic Love by Danny Scheinmann – the description of the journey across Siberia is epic.
- A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini – a very vivid description of life at a terrible period of time in Afghanistan’s history.
- Notes from an exhibition by Patrick Gale – just not my sought of book, far too ‘cosy’.
- Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris – argh this is hard, I liked this book but Notes from an exhibition was more flawlessly written in my opinion.