I nearly gave up. Over privileged Americans casually destroying people’s lives. No one seemed to have any genuine feelings for anyone. The characters felt sketchy, and they floated around in an affectless, druggy trance. Why should I care about any of them? Why should I be interested in their lives? Well, I think that question occurred to A.M Homes too. The first part of the novel was published as a short story, and in deciding to continue it, to extrapolate, to follow these people’s lives, she chose to address those two questions. How do you make your main character sympathetic? Have him be kind to children, old people and animals, give him issues with his physical and mental health. How do you make him interesting? Make him have a great deal of sex. I'm sure it wasn't quite that mechanical, but that's what happens - and it works. As the novel develops, it becomes all about absolution, and the main character sort of inflates from the two dimensional bore of the beginning into a human being with depth, who stops floating and makes decisions, some of them flawed but most of them interesting. You read on, wanting to find out what he’ll do next, what will happen to him next, where he’s going to end up. Story is important, but what’s more important is who is making that story happen, who it's happening to. Character. It’s all about character.
One note. My copy is plastered with reviews which call the book ‘Extremely funny’, ‘Horribly funny’, ‘Brilliantly funny’. These people must be very easily pleased. It raises the odd smile, and has a nice, surprising quirkiness, but ‘Hilarious’? No.