Serious Sweet by A.L. Kennedy

This is the story of two lonely, unhappy and somewhat odd people as they live through the course of one full day  in London.  Meg is younger, single,  an alcoholic,  trying to hang on to some sobriety through AA while dealing with her other life/physical  issues.   Jon is older,  a newly divorced civil servant with a grown child.  Jon wants a woman he can be kind to and enjoys writing letters to lonely women.   He also has problems at work. These are mostly due to severe problems with his lack of self-esteem.    The main thing these two do is go through a fairly normal day while thinking about themselves, their pasts and their predicaments.  It’s quite negative,  but they’re both trying to find some satisfaction within their lives- or at least justify their existence.   After many delays  they meet and …   (It’s a long story but worth it in the end.)

Serious Sweet
by A.L. Kennedy
2016 / 488 pages
read by Simon Mattacks 14h 34m
rating:  8  general fiction
(Booker Prize long list) 

The stories of Meg and Jon are told in third person but with large sections where they think in first person. These stream-of-consciousnes parts are in italics   The time frame of the main story  is the course of one day from 6:42 AM until the next day’s 6:42 AM, but there are quite a lot of flashbacks to catch the reader up on what has gone on to this point.  This is very reminiscent of Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf and maybe Ulysses by James Joyce.

Interspersed with the longer sections which alternate between the two main characters are little vignettes of various characters going about their daily lives  – a man with a child,  a couple hugging,  a woman falling on an escalator and so on.

On the plus side,  it’s nicely written and pretty funny as a satire on what some folks try these days to improve the emptiness of their  lives.  But if you start identifying with the characters it could be a serious downer.   The sweet part is how hard they try to be good and decent human beings caring for others and not getting hurt. The serious part is how they take this desire so very seriously.