|Apr/May2014 Reviews & Interviews|
Terms & Conditions
Bloomsbury. 2014. 254 pp.
ISBN 978 1 4088 5221 7.
Because Terms & Conditions is all about reading the small print, it comes with a title and advertising material replete with small-print footnotes. None of these are as enlightening as the footnotes in the book itself, but they warn you what to expect. And if you are short-sighted, you may need to read this book with a magnifying glass handy, as there are often footnotes to the footnotes to the footnotes, and the typeface gets progressively smaller as these progress.
This gimmick is essentially part of the story, since Frank Shaw, our narrator, is a corporate lawyer who specializes in the small-print Terms & Conditions on legal contracts. He is, he tells us, on one of the bottom rungs of his business: "...the legal equivalent of the guy who sweeps up the hair in a barber's shop."
Frank, however, is expert at his job, even after losing his memory in a car crash, so he is indispensable to his brother who runs the family law firm, even if he doesn't initially recognize him. Nor does he recognize the other person sitting by his hospital bedside, who, it seems, is his "alleged wife."
Robert Glacey's debut novel is carefully plotted, fresh, and amusing. Frank is understandably confused, and the gradual return of his memory reveals more to him than the bare facts of his pre-accident life. He learns things about himself as the "Old Frank," and things about his family that he finds surprising and enlightening. He sees that Oscar, his brother, is manipulative, evil, and "the most corrupt lawyer in London"; that Alice, the "lovely, messy, chaotic girl" he fell in love with, has become, in her own words, "a brilliant HR expert and change-enabler," who, in Frank's words, no longer speaks plain English but is fluent in "corporate cant"; and that Malcolm, his younger brother who sends him quirky e-mails from exotic places, had the right idea when he said "Fuck it!" to becoming a partner in the firm and walked off into the blue.
All the characters are lightly drawn, and Frank, himself, is wryly funny and likeable, so much so that when he eventually exacts his delightful and appropriate revenge, you feel like cheering, even if he can't resist one final footnote* as he walks off wishing everyone "the best of luck and lots of love."
* Terms and conditions apply.