I received a review copy of this title from Open Road Media via Netgalley.
Gavin Lamb is a thirty-one year old virgin who still lives at home with his parents. It’s not that he can’t afford to move out because he has a very lucrative career as a hairdresser in London. But he doesn’t like change and moving out of his childhood home would be more change than he could possibly handle. His doting and old-fashioned mother would also have a very hard time letting go of her son.
The strength of the book is the depiction of Gavin who is meek, shy and kind. His job as a hairdresser has allowed him to practice talking to women but most of his customers are middle-aged and elderly women. The thought of talking to a young woman absolutely paralyzes him. He is also extremely self-conscious about his acne that continues to persist into his thirties. The universe, and his friend Harry, conspire to change Gavin’s quiet, uniform world.
Gavin’s best, and really only friend is Harry, a middle-aged gay man who has a tumultuous relationship with his live-in boyfriend Winthrop. Harry knows that Gavin must be lonely and he suggests that Gavin tag along to a party one weekend. The thought of having to be social and talking to people he doesn’t know terrifies Gavin. But he knows that he should try to be more social and he doesn’t want to say no to Harry. There are two women at the party that cause Gavin to have some interesting adventures.
The woman hosting the party is named Joan and she is a rich socialite who married a man that doesn’t love her. Joan’s husband, Dmitri, only stays with her for her money and he takes off for long periods of time to decorate the homes and yachts of the rich. Gavin finds it remarkably easy to speak with Joan because she is so honest and straightforward with him. It is Joan who introduces him to the finer points of physical intimacy with a woman. But in the end Joan is too unhappy and selfish to ever be committed to someone like Gavin.
The other woman that Gavin meets at the party is a young girl named Minerva who is an absolute hot mess. After the party she follows Gavin home and invites herself to be his house guest for the night. Gavin is horrified at the thought of his mother waking up and finding Minerva in her house. Mrs. Lamb is fascinated with the British upper classes, so Gavin tells her that Minerva is a Lady. This is one of the funniest scenes of the book as Mrs. Lamb falls all over herself to impress Minerva who is just a common girl with various emotional problems. If Mrs. Lamb knew the truth about Minerva she would be absolutely scandalized. Gavin’s kindness and impulse to please others especially comes through when he is dealing with Minerva. He can’t shake her off because he is too polite to tell her to get lost. When he realizes that she has mental problems that need to be addressed he feels more responsible for her than he should.
The third woman that has an impact on Gavin at this time in his life is actually someone that he has known for three years but has never interacted with until a chance encounter during his lunch. Jenny has been a junior assistant at his hair salon but when he accidentally meets her at the park, he talks to her with a level of comfort that he has never know with a young woman. Jenny, he finds out, got pregnant as a teenager and her mother is helping her raise her young son Andrew while she is at work. Jenny asks Gavin to teach her about sophisticated interests such as classical music and literature. Gavin loves his new role as teacher and they get closer he wonders whether or not he has feelings for her.
In the end the author reveals what happens with all three of these women in Gavin’s life and whether or not he manages to get things right with any of them. I thoroughly enjoyed the charming plot of this book as well as the endearing character of Gavin. For those who love classics British literature then Elizabeth Jane Howard is a must-read.
About the Author:
Her last novel in The Cazalet Chronicles series, “ALL CHANGE”, was published in November 2013.