2004-06-18 · in Books · 311 words

Bob Savory's fame and fortune may not last for ever but for the moment he is rich and famous and successful, an intimate even of Frank Gilbey's, a business associate, a partner with Frank, in fact, in a number of prestigious developments, a local son to be proud of, and when people ask him what is the secret of his success — which they do, about once a month, in the Impartial Recorder, our local paper, which likes to do its best for local business and for whom Bob is about the closest thing we have to a living, breathing, home-grown celebrity, with all his own hair and an actual jawline — he smiles his big perfect white smile, the result of years of expensive cosmetic dentistry and worth every penny, he says, and he looks straight at the camera and he says just one word: sandwiches.

This book presents us with several portraits from a year in the life of a small anonymous English town. As such it's fairly similar in structure to "Life A User's Manual" and "253", but it spans enough time that Sansom can tell ongoing stories. The other obvious comparison is to Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon series, which similarly started out as a radio series; while Samson's style is quite different, his sense of humour is much the same, and if you enjoyed one you'll probably like the other.

One nice touch is an extremely comprehensive index (society, there is such a thing as, pudding as proof that, 125); if you want to find all the stories relating to a particular character, or are trying to find a specific incident, then you'll have no trouble. Robert Jordan could learn a lot from this guy.

Nothing to complain about here — an excellent and frequently entertaining example of the genre.