All The Books I Can Read

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Review: Terms & Conditions – Robert Glancy

on March 11, 2014

Terms & ConditionsTerms & Conditions
Robert Glancy
Bloomsbury Publishing
2014, 254p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Frank wakes up in the hospital to be told that he was in a car accident. He lost his spleen and also pretty much all of his memories – he has amnesia. He doesn’t know who he is, who the people in his room are or much of anything else really. All he knows is that he’s a lawyer, the one who writes the contracts and specialises in the small print.

No one ever reads the terms and conditions of a contract, especially when they can run to pages and pages. Frank knows this and it’s his job to write contracts that protect his firm’s clients. After the accident, Frank begins to piece back together his life. He has a wife he doesn’t remember and although he does have memories of his younger brother Malcolm, who is travelling overseas, it takes him a little while to remember his older brother Oscar but there’s a simmering resentment that only grows as Frank begins to regain more and more memories of his childhood and working life.

The more Frank remembers, the less he likes of his life, his job and even himself. What is politely referred to as a “little episode” was really a fully fledged breakdown and now Frank knows what drove him to it. He’s ready to fix things, starting with his own life and he can’t help but use his skills in all their glory to rewrite his own life. After all, no one ever reads the fine print…do they?

There’s been a little bit of a buzz building about this book over the last few weeks and I was super excited when it turned up in my mailbox and I could check out what the fuss is all about. Of course the danger with a buzz is that the book doesn’t live up to it but luckily, that’s not the case with Terms & Conditions.

For starters, I absolutely love the way this book is written. It’s written like the terms and conditions of a contract, broken down into sections (ie Conditon 1 Amnesia) and then each part within that section is headed with something pertinent as Frank pieces back together his life. There are footnotes (the footnotes are hilarious) and this book is just so clever and fun to read. I read it all in one sitting because I was desperate to find out what Frank’s story was and what had caused his problems before the accident but it’s the sort of book you could read in bits and pieces because the way it’s written gives you many places to stop and not lose the thread.

Frank’s job is to write the terms and conditions of lengthy contracts and they can run into the pages. He’s so good that some of his work has become industry standard in some places and he still sees lines he wrote years ago being incorporated. It’s his job to write the bit that basically screws someone over – they think they’re covered but really they’re not because some some clause Frank stuck in the terms and conditions. He’s excellent at what he does but he’s also becoming somewhat jaded with it. He works for his father’s firm, which his father left to all three of his sons however there are some complications and Frank has some issues with where his older brother is taking the business. Frank is also married to a woman named Alice. He doesn’t remember her at the beginning of the book and when memories of her start to return, he realises that who they are now are not who they were when they met or when they got married.

For much of the book, Frank is on the backfoot. He’s been injured in an accident, he didn’t have any memories and now he’s got to slowly piece it all back together. As he recalled more and more I started to get a bit frustrated with him because he wasn’t doing anything with his information. He was very passive, allowing people to walk all over him, to take shots at him, to exclude him from what was rightfully his. But then….Frank begins to put together a plan. And it is, quite honestly, one of the most brilliant things I’ve ever read. He uses his professional skills to put into motion something that will not only help him considerably but also punish those that wronged him and to also right some of his own wrongs. In the most incredible way.

Terms & Conditions is one of the standout novels of the year. It’s format is fresh and different and it’s written with incredible humour and skill. Frank is a great character, an everyday man who appears to be fighting something much bigger than him. In a way, Frank’s victory is a win for the little man and if you like cheering for the underdog then I think you’ll love Frank. You want him to succeed and you want others to get what they deserve. This is the sort of book that’s very satisfying because not only is Frank fighting for himself, but he’s also fighting for right against wrong. He wants to do something that will make amends for some of the contracts he’s written in the past and he wants to do something that he can be proud of and stand up for what he believes in and what is important to him.

When I first finished this book, I rated it an 8 but on further reflection writing this review, I’m going to increase it to a 9 because I think it took breaking it down like this to realise how very clever it was and what it’s saying beneath the surface. There are layers here, the bleakness, the black humour, the family relationships, the work environment, the struggle with things that go against your moral code and the quest to just stop standing by and do something.

And the footnotes. There can never be too many footnotes.


Book #57 of 2014


3 responses to “Review: Terms & Conditions – Robert Glancy

  1. Marg says:

    Is this the bookt hat is being compared to The Rosie Project?

  2. Oh wow, I hadn’t even heard of this before reading your review but now …!!! It sounds fab-o. 😀

  3. […] John Purcell (Booktopia Blog) ; Sam Still Reading ; Utter Biblio ; Inside My Worlds ; All the Books I Can Read ; Book’d […]

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