Good Material : By Dolly Alderton. Andy, 35 year-old struggling comedian who narrates most of Dolly Alderton's new novel, '' Good Material, '' has been freshly dumped by his ex, Jen, for mysterious reasons.

Like Rob in Nick Hornby's '' High Fidelity '', an obvious inspiration, Andy knows his relationship had its problems.

He's even compiled a list of Jen's faults, including '' lingered too long in museums'' where, '' heonce saw her nod respectfully at a TINY JADE SPOON.''

It doesn't soothe his heartbreak ; Andy is obsessed with working out what went wrong. In the process, maybe he can get to the bottom of why the rest of his life has derailed, too.

Alderton is a cultural phenomenon in the U.K, but she has yet to reach the same degree of fame in the U.S., even though her coming of age memoir : 

'' Everything I Know About Love,'' has spent weeks on the New York Times best-seller list and is the basis of TV series of the same name.

'' Good Material,'' her second novel and the first she's written from the perspective of a man, delivers the most delightful aspects of classic romantic comedy - snappy dialogue, realistic relationship dynamics, humorous meet-cutes and misunderstandings - and leaves behind the cliched gender roles and traditional marriage plot.

Andy, described by one character as a shambolic, ''overgrown schoolboy'', can't get his agent to call him back.

Too broke to live by himself in London, he's moved in with a 78-year-old conspiracy theorist who has a parasocial relationship with Julian Assange.

His friends won't meet for impromptu drinks because they have to get up early to take care of their children.

And then, of course, there's Jen, who broke up with him seemingly out of nowhere.  

For most of the book, we can only guess why as we follow along on Andy's relatable chaotic and often very funny [ to us ] rebound journey. He spends some ill-fated time on a houseboat.

In '' Good Material,'' as in all of her writing, Alderton excels at portraying nonromantic intimate relationships with tenderness and authenticity. 

Andy struggles to be emotionally vulnerable with his male friends and laments his inability to express his feelings as articulately as the women in his life :

They sound like '' listening to an orchestra perform '' while he hoots along '' tunelessly like a grade-one recorder player.''

At the end of the book, Alderton further subverts the form by giving Jen the last word. She's made her own breakup list, and it turns out that Andy is a museum mansplainer, among worse faults.

Neither Jen nor Andy is perfect, But Jen's perspective reminds the reader of the socialized gender dynamics that are impossible to escape in relationships - ones that are damaging to both parties, but especially unfair to women.

The World Students Society thanks J.M.Baker, a correspondent for The New York Times who wishes she lived in London.


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