If you really want to know what makes men tick, you need look no further than any of Mike Gayle’s wonderfully funny and insightful novels. ‘Turning Forty’ is one such book that so many readers will identify with – facing up to getting older and trying to determine what one wants from life. Turning Forty, however, is written from the male perspective so, unsurprisingly, there is no mention of discovering stray grey hairs and wrinkles that suddenly appear overnight. Instead there are crises over women and too much beer but the same overwhelming urge to find some sort of direction as middle age approaches.
Turning Forty is about Matt Beckford, who (and this will come as no surprise) is rapidly approaching the ripe old age of forty. Up until just a few months ago Matt was almost looking forward to reaching this respectable middle aged milestone. However, things have changed: his wife has left him declaring that she does not love him any more; after a few health scare moments he has packed in his high powered but stressful job; he has had to sell his beloved Porsche; and the only place that he can find to live for the moment is back with his parents in their family home in Birmingam.
The few months leading up to Matt’s fortieth see him at crisis point especially as all his old friends appeared to have moved on, settled down and make something of their lives. bumping into many of them in the local supermarket causes Matt to compare his own sorry life with theirs. Even hanging out with an ageing rock star and finding an incredibly young and attractive girlfriend doesn’t seem to help.
If Matt is to face up to and enjoy his forties, he needs to reconcile his past and also make decisions about what he really wants and needs out of life. The problem is that the relentless countdown has begun and every day brings him that big closer to the big milestone without finding any answers. Will he succeed or will he run out of days before the big birthday?
Turning Forty is an entertaining read that will definitely satisfy Mike Gayle’s fans; particularly if, about ten years ago, they had been tempted to pick up and read another of his books – ‘Turning Thirty’. It’s the same character but just ten years on with Matt facing a different set of issues that he did when he was thirty. It’s enjoyable to see how he has changed and moved on in the intervening years. However, if you have not read ‘Turning Thirty’, it does not matter as ‘turning Forty’ works very well as a stand alone novel. One observation that I couldn’t help making is how Matt is so much more grown up and the whole book is much less ‘laddish’ than some of the earlier books. It’s only to be expected though as it seems that Mike Gayle’s characters seem to keep pace with the author, himself, as far as age is concerned.
It’ still very enjoyable but it’s not quite the ‘laugh-a-minute’ read that I was expecting. Having said that though, I do recommend it highly for a light and entertaining read and one that is likely to be enjoyed by both sexes.
Turning Forty by Mike Gayle
Published by Hodder and Stoughton, July 2013
I am very grateful to the publishers for sending me a review copy.
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