James Hawes, Dead Long Enough

Some books come with an implied label saying 'Suitable for Ages 8 to 80', like an old Sands board-game. Others come with an unwritten use-by date: 'Best Before Your 21st Birthday'; 'Read This at University'. Some make no sense until you've reached a certain age or done certain things.

I've just read James Hawes's Dead Long Enough, which should carry the instruction to 'Read in Your Thirties While Having a Mid-Life Crisis'. Yes, you could read it earlier, but you'd read it as a tourist watching the strange customs of exotic lands. It's a book to be read after you've been around a while; after you've had some dreams and felt them slip away.

Hawes has been pitched on the back cover as the 'funniest British novelist writing today', but there is nothing funny about this book - and I don't say that disparagingly. It takes a while to get going, and the plot doesn't really go anywhere until half-way through, but when it does: bang. Serious insight. The kind that most twenty-somethings won't recognise, and that the 40-plus will consider facile.

But it's not for them, it's for us; by which I mean, of course, for me. If you're somewhere in your thirties, physically or emotionally, this is a book for explaining you to yourself.


First published in Walking West, 30 April 2001.
This page: 2 May 2001.

©2001 Rory Ewins