The Faithful Couple
Copy courtesy of the publisher/TheReadingRoom.com
In 1993, Neil Collins and Adam Tayler meet in California. Both are English. Neil has just left his first job as a travelling salesman and is having a holiday before he goes to find something new. Adam has just finished his degree and is taking a holiday before he too, goes to find something new. Although from rather different backgrounds, both of them are alone and it’s suggested that they might do a bit of travelling together, getting a car and driving up the west coast. Before that though, they’re going to visit Yosemite.
It’s Yosemite where things get a bit complicated. Their harmless competition and attempts to one up each other turns a bit serious, leading an an incident that both of them will come to regret. They return to England but maintain the friendship through various girlfriends, wives and differing jobs. Originally from a wealthy family, Adam’s stock falls whilst Neil’s begins to rise as London rides a wave of success in the nineties before the dot com bust of the new millennium. All the while there is the secret they both keep at the back of their minds but it isn’t until Adam and his wife welcome a newborn daughter that it begins to rear its ugly head and drive a wedge between the two friends that may not be able to be repaired.
So this book, I don’t know. Sometimes you get those books where you finish them and you’re like ‘what on Earth am I even going to say about this?’ to yourself. This for me, is one of those books. I’ve never read A.D Miller before but I have heard of the novel that he had shortlisted for the Man-Booker, Snowdrops. This seemed rather interesting because it was about friendship rather than a romantic relationship. It’s different to the books I’d usually read but fits in with my attempts to read more male authors and also try to step out of my comfort zone more often. I’m not entirely sure this was a successful attempt.
Neil and Adam are both at a party at a hostel in San Diego when they strike up a conversation. Neil is about 28ish, he’s left his job and is taking a holiday before returning home. He’ll work in his father’s stationery store until he finds something else. Adam has just finished his degree, from a very different background. He and several friends will rent a London flat for beginning their careers and Adam will have the family coffers at his back until he becomes gainfully employed. Their friendship begins oddly and it’s suggested very quickly that they might travel together for some time. They begin a subtle game of one-upmanship, creating elaborate stories of who they are and how they met for others that they converse with. It’s a game that both of them fall into easily without even speaking of it, which is perhaps the base for how they begin spending time together. When they go camping with a group at Yosemite, they meet a young girl and both are seemingly interested when she shows signs of being so but I couldn’t figure out if they were actually interested in their own right or simply because to ‘score’ with her would be yet another way for one of them to one-up the other. I suspect the latter.
That girl in a way, bonds them together in a friendship that stands the test of time. Twenty years later and Adam and Neil are still mates – Adam works in public policy but Neil has risen to new and wealthy (and perhaps dubious) heights. He no longer needs Adam’s help for a loan or a good word. Adam has married and has a son and then his wife gives birth to a daughter. It is this event that makes Adam question their actions and behaviour twenty years ago in Yosemite and in a way he becomes obsessed with it. He wants to talk about it but to Neil it was one moment in time twenty years ago that he just wants to forget. Adam needs to talk about it and Neil won’t which leads to perhaps their first ever falling out, especially when Neil finds out that Adam held information twenty years ago and never gave it to him. That information would’ve changed Neil’s actions I think but at the same time he never seemed all that concerned about what happened. I think people’s opinions on this will differ, whether or not they see it as something Neil should or could go to jail for.
Ultimately I was disappointed with this book because I felt it glossed over too much. It glossed over Neil and Adam returning to England, their lives in the twenty years or so before Adam has a daughter and it even really glossed over their falling out and how that subsequently affected both of them. I found the scene between Neil and Adam’s wife contrived and cliched and at times I couldn’t even really comprehend how this event had continued to plague Adam so. I know when he had a daughter his view changed and he realised how he’d feel but at the same time when he started to attempt to track down the girl and wouldn’t let it go, I wasn’t exactly sure what he wanted to achieve. He seemed to have no end game other than to dwell on it obsessively. I don’t understand why Adam didn’t confide in Neil the information that he’d chosen to withhold and I feel as though, given he was the one in the know, he was equally to blame although he didn’t seem to want to accept this? I finished it and it wasn’t a difficult read, I just couldn’t engage with either the story or the characters.
Book #58 of 2015