The Faithful Couple
California, 1993: Neil Collins and Adam Tayler, two young British men on the cusp of adulthood, meet at a hostel in San Diego. They strike up a friendship that, while platonic, feels as intoxicating as a romance; they travel up the coast together, harmlessly competitive, innocently collusive, wrapped up in each other. On a camping trip to Yosemite they lead each other to behave in ways that, years later, they will desperately regret.
The story of a friendship built on a shared guilt and a secret betrayal, THE FAITHFUL COUPLE follows Neil and Adam across two decades, through girlfriends and wives, success and failure, children and bereavements, as power and remorse ebb between them. Their bifurcating fates offer an oblique portrait of London in the boom-to-bust era of the nineties and noughties, with its instant fortunes and thwarted idealism. California binds them together, until – when the full truth of what happened emerges, bringing recriminations and revenge – it threatens to drive them apart.
It is not often that I do not form a strong opinion or sense of a book but this one has me stumped. I struggled to immerse myself in the narrative and often (particular in the first half of the book) had trouble differentiating between the two protagonist and found myself constantly flicking back to see whom it was that I was currently reading about. And it took me a few days to read – which is an indication of my lack of connection to this narrative.
I think this book poses some interesting questions about class, friendship and morality. In particular I think the symbiotic friendship between the two protagonists works very well and is very credible however the episode with Rose didn’t quite achieve the momentum I think the author was aiming for. I can see how the relationship worked here, the goading, the alpha male competitiveness …but why the one in the know didn’t speak up and prevent the incident I did not understand and why they weren’t able to talk about this after didn’t quite work for me, maybe I missed something?
I did want to like this one more than I did.