Love & a dozen roast potatoes

A warm, funny autobiographical novel from Urbane Publications. Hugely romantic. Larger than life and twice as naughty.

Simon Wan, half Chinese, half white British is a kind of male Bridget Jones, if Bridget Jones was a skateboarding, wannabee pop star, dressed in outrageous clothes, swearing and taking drugs and drinking at raves. Simon is desperate to find ‘The One’. Even at primary school where his Chinese ancestry means everyone thinks he’s immune to Chinese burns, he’s looking for the girl of his dreams. No matter how many times she turns out to be the girl of his nightmares, or he sabotages the relationship with the girl of his dreams, he never gives up. He is irrepressible, bouncing back with renewed energy, moving around the country to start again. Ever hopeful. And we’re right there with him, even if we want to say: Stop, get out now! She’s no good for you!

I loved his writing style – short snappy sentences, realistic dialogue, pacy storytelling. I particularly liked the way his dialogue was offset by comments (his own thoughts) to point up the comedy:

‘Wanna sleep in a cosy bed tonight with me?’ Red light bulb, heater on since the afternoon.

‘But I’m already cosy here.’ Resistance at ten percent.

‘Your boyfriend won’t want you sleeping on a couch.’ Think of your posture.

‘He won’t care. He’s probably shagging his boyfriends.’ This is it.

‘Cup of tea when you wake up?’ Leaning in.

‘Milk and no sugar.’ I’m sweet enough.

I was carried along with the story, no matter how unlikely, until about two thirds of the way through, when Simon is approaching forty and about to embark on yet another disastrous affair. Falling in love or rather being in love is an obsession  – he’s addicted to that rush. He’s not ready to settle for the sometimes daily ordinariness that comes with a long-term relationship. Still looking for love in the most unlikely of places and looking to be the knight in shining armour. He wants to be the one who fixes everyone. He meets a woman who is addicted to coke and completely messed up. Oh dear Simon just leave her, don’t get involved. But he does. And it all goes wrong. Of course. And he has to walk away.

I didn’t like it. I left. Fuck this. Watching someone you care about switch from genuine creative glee to chemical-induced fascination made me feel sick.

The problem is that he’s attracted to wacky, wild girls like just like him and what he needs, as he is beginning to realise this towards the end of the novel, is someone more grounded.

My only issue with the book is that Simon sees women as primarily sex objects; at one point he encourages and supports a  girlfriend to have a boob job. As a feminist I found this deeply unpleasant. But I didn’t let it stop me from enjoying the story and by the end I stopped being annoyed at his refusal to grow up (ironically he meets one of his girlfriends in a tree associated with Peter Pan.)

On the whole the book is a pleasure to read, and he’s an engaging and likeable narrator telling a funny and sometimes poignant  story. He has now, as far as I understand, given up the world of pop music for acting – a perfect choice for someone who is so much larger than life.

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