Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Noughties, by Ben Masters. Hogarth, 2012

‘Noughties’ takes place over the course of one night- and over the course of four years. The narrator, Eliot, is spending his last night at Oxford with his fellow grads, going from pub to bar to club. As the night goes on (and Eliot and his friends drink aggressively), Eliot reminisces over his last year of school, his entrance to Oxford, his three years there, his ex-girlfriend Lucy, the people he is drinking with. He is faced with becoming an adult, and is woefully unprepared. His time at Oxford has taught him a tremendous amount about English literature, an equally tremendous amount about drinking, and not much else. Up until this night, his course of action was always laid out for him; his lower middle class parents expected him to do better than they did and to them it was a given that he would attend university; once at Oxford, his course was set for three years. Now he has to make his own decisions.

I have mixed feelings about this novel. The mixing of past and present work well. I thought the sections about the tutorials were brilliant- the way the students were set into competition against each other, the professor who cultivates a persona of shocking hipster. The characters, however, all seemed somewhat stereotyped, and Eliot is a total prat. He’s horrible to women and not the greatest friend. He’s so eager to hide his origins from his Oxford mates that he decides his girlfriend from home is embarrassing- and is upset that they like her. While most of us aren’t at our best at his age, Eliot is hard to take. It’s difficult to empathize with someone who has no redeeming characteristics. All in all I liked the story, but not nearly as much as I’d hoped. I do think Masters has a great future as a novelist, but he needs more years of writing under his belt.

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