Category > Comic fiction

The Man Who Forgot His Wife

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The Man Who Forgot His Wife by John O’ Farrell, book review“Lots of husbands forget things: they forget that their wife had an important meeting that morning; they forget to pick up the dry cleaning; some of them even forget their wedding anniversary. But Vaughan has forgotten that he even had a wife. Her name, her face, their history together, everything.”

When you pick up a book called The Man Who Forgot His Wife, you can be pretty confident about what you are going to get: a story about a man who has forgotten his wife. If that book happens to be brightly coloured and authored by John O’Farrell (a writer who claims “Spitting Image” amongst his many credits) then you can be pretty confident that you are going to get a comedy.


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The Teahouse of the August Moon

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Vern Sneider -  The Tea-House of the August Moon, book reviewThe Teahouse of the August Moon, by the American novelist Vern Sneider, is a gentle comedy about the American occupation of Japan after the Second World War, where the Japanese get the better of the Americans, the Americans organise the Japanese more efficiently, and everyone learns to love each other’s way of life. My fascination with this book began because it was a beautiful fairy story with a happy ending. Later, I reread it to enjoy the tidy way that everything worked out just fine: I do like the practical organisation of happy endings. I also reread it endlessly to get to the bottom of the mysterious geisha girls: why were they such a problem? They seemed so nice, and did their own sewing.

According to his obituary in the New York Times, during the Second World War Vern Sneider had been part of the American military government team that installed itself in Okinawa in April 1945, as an occupation force. He became the military commander of Tobaru, a small Japanese town of 5000 people. This book is based on his experiences, and must be one of the most gentle novels about army occupation ever written. It must also have been a whitewash, a sanitised recounting of a traumatic time at the end of war.


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Wild Abandon

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Wild Abandon, Joe Dunthorne, book reviewWild Abandon is the second novel by Joe Dunthorne, after the very successful (and funny) Submarine, which was also made into a good independent film. Submarine was about adolescence, and Wild Abandon in part is set in similar territory, reflecting the fact that Dunthorne is still a very young writer.

Wild Abandon is a comic novel set in a commune in South Wales. Kate is the adolescent daughter of the founders and leaders of the commune (Don and Freya), and Albert is her pre-adolescent younger brother.


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Perfect Meringues

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Perfect Meringues by Laurie Graham, book reviewForty-something Lizzie Partridge is a cookery “expert” on “Midlands this Morning”, a kind of poor man’s provincial version of ITV’s “This Morning”. The job hasn’t brought her the fame and success she’d hoped for, but then neither had she expected to be divorced and bringing up the teenager from hell. She endures a series of disastrous dates with a bunch of seriously weird misfits and cries on the shoulder of best friend – and Midlands This Morning’s resident astrologer – Louie, who would be the perfect husband, if only he wasn’t also her gay best friend. One day when out shopping, Lizzie sets her sights on a new man, who she’s seen putting a notice in the window of the newsagents and embarks upon a campaign to ensnare him by way of his wash boiler; the trouble is nothing seems to go smoothly for Lizzie …


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Family Planning

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Introducing the Ahujas

Family Planning By Karan MahajanIt is a truth universally acknowledged, that a 16-year old with a crush on a girl on the school bus, must be in want of a less embarrassing family.

In the case of Arjun, his family is so personally embarrassing to him that not even his best friends know that in addition to the 6 siblings he admits to (the ones he can’t deny since they go to his school) there are another 6 making up the total brood at home. As if that wasn’t embarrassing enough, his mother’s about to add another to the collection. Arjun’s father Rakesh Ahuja is a politician – the Minister for Urban Development – and he has two great passions; his lust for pregnant women which leads him to keep his wife almost permanently in a state of pregnancy and lactation and his determination to improve the city infrastructure for which he is responsible by building lots of flyovers.

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Extended Family Humour

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 The Ex-wives by Deborah MoggachThe Ex-Wives by Deborah Moggach is one of the author’s many contemporary novels.  However, she is most well known for an historical novel called Tulip Fever, set in 17th century Amsterdam.

The Ex-Wives opens with the central character of Buffy (Russell Buffery), an actor, feeling old and sorry for himself.

He has ex-wives, as well as other partners he hasn’t married, children and step-children and now has to quite literally pay for his past “mistakes”.

As someone who has started to feel the aches and pains of getting old myself, I found the explanations of some of his “problems” comically entertaining.

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Medieval Comedy – Blackadder Style

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Having the Builders in By Reay TannahillHaving the Builders in by Reay Tannahill combines two of my favourite fiction categories – historical and humour.

Have you ever tried to live in a home where builders are undertaking major work? If so you will probably relate to a lot of the problems described in the book, even though it is set hundreds of years ago. Hopefully this hasn’t involved any sudden deaths though, or the threat of an invasion from across The Channel.

Most books by Reay Tannahill are serious looks at history, whether fact (including Sex in History and Food in History) or historical fiction (including The Seventh Son about Richard III and Fatal Majesty about Mary Queen of Scots). Then, towards the end of her life, she wrote two great humorous historical fiction books. Sadly, she died in 2007, aged 77.

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Oxford Don Studies Essex Girl

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Cupid's Dart (Paperback) By (author) David NobbsCupid’s Dart by David Nobbs contains Great British social humour, which I found very entertaining.

David Nobbs is also the creator of Reggie Perrin, along with many other comedy works in the form of novels, as well as TV and radio scriptwriting.

Before earning his living as a writer he was in the army, a journalist and an advertising executive. Born in Kent, and now living near Harrogate, he is adept at bringing eccentric British personalities sharply to life. He has obviously mastered the technique of “people-watching”.

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Mission ‘Friends Like These’

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Friends Like These by Danny WallaceI have been a fan of Danny Wallace for quite a while now – ever since I read his collaboration with Dave Gorman on the book ‘Are You Dave Gorman?’ Since then Danny has gone on to write a number of books of his own, all based on mad boyish escapades which manage to take him to far flung places and sometimes land him in a bit of bother! His latest book that I have read – Friends like These – is written in the same vein, although it does have some quite thought provoking and poignant moments too. It is also quite mad as well, which is the style I have come to know and love from Danny Wallace!

As he writes this book, Danny is fast approaching his thirtieth birthday which seems to be causing him a bit of a crisis. Although he is happily married to Lizzie, they own their own home and he has an interesting career;

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Sidney Kugelmass, his love affair with Emma Bovery and other funny stories

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Complete Prose by Woody AllenThe Complete Prose of Woody Allen is a bumper collection of comic fiction and essays and consists of the three Woody Allen books of humorous prose – Getting Even (1971), Without Feathers (1975), and Side Effects (1980). There are over fifty pieces of comic writing here which makes the book both great value for money (my paperback copy is 473 pages long) and a handy companion to dip into on a train or when you are stuck for something to read. The book is a good example of Allen’s versatility and comic flair and the pieces, mostly written for The New Yorker originally, are very much in the spirit of SJ Perelman and Groucho Marx, absurdist but with a cerebral comic twist courtesy of Allen and plenty of references to history and classic literature.

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