Wednesday, 9 March 2016
The Faithful Couple by A. D. Miller Review
Bland, lifeless, comatose - all words that are far too high energy to describe AD Miller’s novel The Faithful Couple. If you think making yourself a cup of tea and then staring at a plank of wood while the tea cools before sipping it slowly is exciting, get ready for the most pulse-racing read of your life!
Reading this novel is like queuing at the post office for nine hours while the two most boring men in the world expressionlessly tell you their impossibly dull lives. Adam works in the civil service. He’s married with two kids, he’s got a mortgage, and he wants to be a Band 7 in his office. Neil works in sales. He eventually gets married with a kid but in the meantime he just focuses on wealth management, schmoozing with douchebags for money he does nothing with. He has a nephew he likes to spend time with. They talk about nothing.
I shit you not, that is the whole novel. EXCEPT - I’m sorry, caps probably caused several heart attacks for any AD Miller fans (is “fan” too strong a word for them?) reading this review - except for that time when they were both in their early 20s and Neil slept with an underage girl. She was 15, he was 23, it’s wrong and I don’t mean to be insensitive but it was consensual and, let’s not kid ourselves, this shit happens every single day. It’s barely noteworthy and in the history of the world much worse things have happened. But this is a novel that, by gum (that’s more on the level of AD Miller’s readership), knows it’s a novel.
What do I mean? I mean that this comparatively small incident that took place one night has gone on to have humongous relevance in Neil and Adam’s friendship for years and years afterwards. Why? Well, it was wrong, legally and morally so they feel a lil guilty. They weren’t punished for it - the girl’s dad yelled at them but the cops weren’t involved and the girl didn’t seem scarred - but, even though most people would brush it off as a stupid youthful indiscretion that they regretted, this novel needs something and it’s got nothing else so let’s overstate the importance of this and tie it into whatever the book is supposedly about. Only in fiction does crap like this stand out with characters unconvincingly returning to a very specific and small incident over and over because novelistic conceit.
So this is the structure of The Faithful Couple: two boring men live their boring lives, occasionally thinking of that time when one of them slept with an underage girl. Repeat, repeat, repeat as the story jumps a couple years ahead with each chapter. Later on Adam becomes a father and thinks to himself, gasp, what if an older man sleeps with his one day teenage daughter?? Sorry, am I meant to give a shit?
Does it say anything profound about the act itself - human nature, sexuality, male friendships? Adam has a wealthy background, Neil has a middle-class one - is there any commentary on class? Nope. I suppose social mobility is proven to be possible and we discover the private sector pays more than the public (who knew? Oh right, everyone) but is that worth writing an entire fucking novel about? At one point Neil almost does something that could have led to an affair with Adam’s wife - and look at the steps in that statement! - but doesn’t, and that’s about the only other notable thing that happens.
The dull as fuck title references a pair of ancient trees in Yosemite National Park which need each other to survive… just like Neil and Adam… crap on a crudstick, look how arty AD Miller is being… drop dead, AD Miller, those trees have more personality than your characters.
The Faithful Couple is a novel about nothing with even less to say. This book is the physical manifestation of monotony. Give a copy to someone you truly hate but bear in mind AD Miller probably has a few editions of his own already.
The Faithful Couple