Cover Image: The Answer to Everything

The Answer to Everything

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Member Reviews

Life should have been good for Emily. She had a lovely husband, Steven, who was a speech therapist. We'll pass over the fact that they rarely speak to each other and don't even sleep in the same bed. It isn't so much that Emily has left the marital bed as that she's sharing a bed with one of her children as it's the only way to get him to sleep during the night. Arthur and Matty are gorgeous but they are a handful and Emily has a job to cope with too - she teaches drama two days a week. They've not long moved into a new home in Criterion Gardens: it's a trendy area that has been gentrified and it's run on semi-communal lines. The residents even share eco-friendly electric cars rather than owning their own.

What's not to love about life then? Well, Emily has a history of mental illness and she lacks support until she meets up with Elliott and Alathea Broughton. Elliott - charming and a little lost - is a lecturer and Alathea - beautiful, confident and disarmingly open - is a psychoanalyst. They have two children - Tomasz and Dimitry - who are about the same age as Arthur and Matty. Meeting on school runs, trips to the park and the general business of life are all too easy for Elliott and Emily - far too easy, as it turns out. Emily is susceptible to attention, despite her strong religious beliefs.

If Emily's susceptible, what's in it for Elliott? They talk in person: there's little they can't or don't share. They text each other at all hours of the day and the night: in one fortnight there were 8042 texts. Elliott's relationship with Alathea is dysfunctional: passion is provoked by hurting each other or by damaging or destroying the other's precious belongings. Elliott tells Emily that he loves Alathea but that he loves Emily too. How's it going to end?

I was told that the novel was heartbreakingly moving and hilariously funny and I completely got the heartbreakingly moving bit to the point that I cried for Elliott and Emily. Luke Kennard is a poet - he knows how to use words to great effect - and he took me back into every dysfunctional relationship I'd encountered. At one point I wondered if I might need Alathea Broughton's professional services to sort out a few personal issues. I didn't find the book hilariously funny. 'Mildly amusing on occasions' was about as far as I got on that front. To be brutally honest, it was an uncomfortable, if addictive read about people, none of whom I could really warm to.

It's a forensic study of obsession and possession and I was just beginning to wonder where it was going when Kennard twisted the story in a way that made my jaw drop - and I simply didn't see it coming despite all the clues being there. Superb.

I'd like to thank the publishers for letting Bookbag have a review copy.
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Genre: Literary Fiction | Fiction | Romance 

Release Date: Expected 13th May 2021 

Emily has everything. A husband, two beautiful children, a great job and a new home in a trendy neighbourhood with wonderfully friendly neighbours.

But her and her husband don't talk anymore, she hasn't slept properly since the boys were born, she doesn't want to keep working so much, her estate is full of aging hipsters, and the neighbours might be an issue. Alathea is beautiful, confident and totally intimidating and her husband Elliot is ... a problem. He's charming, and funny, and understanding and she's finding herself undeniably drawn to the couple. But too soon her friendship with Elliot is all-consuming and out of control. They should be happy with their lives, but underneath they still want something more.

I'm just going to say it - everyone in this book was extremely unlikeable. They were dysfunctional, selfish, and destructive but somehow I was still desperately searching for their redeeming qualities and wanting to know more about them. The stark contrast between our two married couples was jarring - both messed up in their own unique ways that would never be obvious on the surface.

The Answer to Everything is a story about obsession, posession and jealousy thay can trickle from relationships into someones whole life - setting us up with a simmering tension that keeps the reader on edge without letting up - even through to the very end. Analysing the differences between just being stuck in a rut or finding yourself stuck in a life you don't want, this book called out to the part deep inside us that is desperate for love and connection. 

I read through this in one sitting - it was easy to read and quite addictive - although there were a lot of long text message exchanges that went on for quite some time but still added something valuable and the ending was most definitely not anything I saw coming but left me wanting just that little bit more - no doubt completely on purpose. 

This was a story about counting your blessings, but your crosses too - It was strange and uncomfortable and awkward and I loved every minute of it. 


RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to Luke Kennard, Fourth Estate and NetGalley for an ARC in return for an honest review.
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'No one cares about it,' thinks one character, about fine art. 'It's like poetry but with money.' I had to laugh at this, as Kennard is one of our most respected young poets in the UK, with another fine novel - The Transition- behind him. As in The Transition, two of the characters are haunted by the possibility of a recurrence of mental ill health, with one character, Emily. scarred by her two experiences of extreme post-natal depression and wondering what she's doing in a halogen-lit, smooth-ceilinged new-build full of other harassed young parents. Glamorous new neighbours Elliott and Alathea distract her for a while, but perhaps too much? This is a strong novel in the tradition of other youngish male poets Nathan Filer and Joe Dunthorne, with the same laugh-out-loud wit as The Transition.
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This is, in parts, beautiful and heartbreaking - although there is a definite theme of having to suspend disbelief which is a real shame - this would have been far more hard hitting without these parts. 

Well written characters and a story I whizzed through. Well written and thought provoking.
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Emily should be happy. She has a nice husband (even if they rarely speak to each other, let alone sleep in the same bed), two little boys she loves (even if a full night’s sleep is a distant memory) – and now, a brand-new house in which they can live out all of the bourgeois fantasies she knows she should be ashamed of. But still, she aches for something more.
 
Enter Alathea and Elliott, their new neighbours, and also parents of two young boys. Alathea is intimidatingly confident and beautiful, but also disarmingly open and friendly. And Elliott … Elliott is intriguing. Dishevelled, talented, charming and a little lost, he seems as fascinated by Emily as she is by him, and soon their friendship has reached an intensity neither of them seems able to control.

This is a lovely, well-written book that is a quick and easy read that provides you with some escapism from the world. This is a first for me by the author and one I enjoyed and would read more of their work. The book cover is eye-catching and appealing and would spark my interest if in a bookshop. Thank you very much to the author, publisher and Netgalley for this ARC.

3.5/5.
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A well thought through novel about screwed up relationships. I'm not sure I really liked any of them however but the book is well written.
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I really, really enjoyed this - I'm a big fan of the 'unhappy middle-class couples are depressed/repressed in suburbia' genre, and this one felt a bit like Standard Deviation except everyone is younger, or Conversations with Friends except everyone is older. Hits the sweet spot of being equal parts funny and mildly devastating, and so well-propelled by simmering tension that I could not put it down. Also includes a rare example of a perfectly deployed Twitter meme!

Possibly the only thing that didn't quite work for me were some long sections of text messages (which would probably work better when you're not reading an eARC) but overall I loved it. and bits of it will whirl around in my head for a long while. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC!
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What a curious book, at first I found it a little difficult to get in to - but if you're unsure I beg you to persevere as it was worth every moment afterwards.
I've not laughed at a book like that in a very long time, such innocuous comments but in the right context they are so beautifully hilarious. 

Moving in to a new neighbourhood where people already know each other well is hard, especially a 'curated estate' of sorts like Emily and Steven find themselves in. 

It's long been said that families can be very different behind closed doors, but Kennard has really captured something different amongst the stereotypical 'arguments at home' story line.  I would be very interested to read more from him.
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This is a sharply written and emotionally literate novel, chronicling a mostly emotional affair between two neighbours. It’s highly compelling, although one of the four characters in two central couples is grossly under-written which I found frustrating, and I enjoyed the mix of narrative and epistolary style. I found the focus on the Orthodox Church really fresh - certainly it’s not something I’ve seen written about in this depth before - and an unusual inclusion in a novel about middle-class suburban angst, which I enjoyed.  I certainly wouldn’t want to know any of these characters in real life (and I don’t quite buy the depth of emotional insight every single female character has into the male protagonist) but I enjoyed spending a couple of days reading about them. Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC.
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A wonderful read I enjoyed the story the characters who came alive.A story of marriage life desire so well written so involving will be highly recommending.#netgalley #4thestatebooks,
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A quick and easy read that I found myself picking up after a long day to unwind. The characters are beautifully written and I came to love them within the first few pages and was rooting for them all the way to the end. At times I wanted to stop reading because I just wanted the experience to go on for longer. Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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