Making Nice

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Pub Date 30 Sep 2021 | Archive Date 28 Oct 2021

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The deliciously sharp new novel from Ferdinand Mount, author of the Sunday Times Book of the Year Kiss Myself Goodbye

Ferdinand Mount's Making Nice takes place in the murky world of London PR firms, the back rooms of Westminster and on the campaign trail in America and Africa. We follow the hapless Dickie Pentecost, lately the diplomatic correspondent for a London financial newspaper, together with his wife Jane and daughters Flo, an aspiring ballet dancer, and Lucy, a teenager of fourteen. The family find themselves bound up in an ever more alarming series of unfortunate events revolving around the shady character of Ethel (full name Ethelbert), founder of the dubious public relations agency Making Nice.

With echoes of Evelyn Waugh and The Thick of It, Making Nice is a masterly take on the madness of contemporary society and the limitless human capacity for self-deception.

The deliciously sharp new novel from Ferdinand Mount, author of the Sunday Times Book of the Year Kiss Myself Goodbye

Ferdinand Mount's Making Nice takes place in the murky world of London PR firms...

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ISBN 9781472992864
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Featured Reviews

Dickie Pentecost is a journalist when we first meet him, on holiday with oncologist wife, Jane and daughters, Flo, and Lucy. Driven by the weather to sleep in a Church, Dickie wakes to find a strange young man seemingly worshipping at the altar. Introducing himself as Ethel (short for Ethelbert), he keeps popping up in odd places and seems to know just where Dickie – and his family - will be. This is more than Dickie himself knows, for life is about to take a sudden change. Not that he particularly liked his job, but, when he suddenly finds himself on the street with a box of his belongings, desk cleared, and suddenly redundant, he wonders how he will find a new role. When circumstances mean that Jane leaves her job, then Dickie needs to start earning some money and, seemingly, Ethel is the man to offer him employment. Enter, public relations agency ‘Making Nice,’ housed in a building off Tottenham Court Road and run by Ethel and his partner, Gloria Wormsley. The blurb for this novel mentioned Evelyn Waugh and there is something of Waugh’s early novels in this, with the oddly named and eccentric characters. Dickie soon finds himself flying around the world; sent off to Africa to help organise the re-election of a client, to the USA as Data Manager for the campaign of Senator Jerry Faldo, standing for presidential nomination and, closer to home, to a client’s investment in his daughter’s ballet school. Dickie is often hapless, confused and out of his depth, while Ethel remains a disquieting presence, pulling the strings off-stage. This is a clever novel, with dark humour, rooted in the ambitious, modern world of public relations I am delighted to have read this and certainly wish to explore more of the author’s work. I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review.

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Ferdinand Mount writes an astute and keenly observed satire of our contemporary world infected by the dark arts of the PR world, of spin doctors, slippery, manipulative, intent on shaping society with the cancer of their lies, illusions, deception and distorted truths, where there is no low they will not stoop to. Dickie Pentecost, diplomatic correspondent on a financial paper takes his family, oncologist Jane and his teenage daughters, 14 year old Lucy and 16 year old Flo 'champing', camping on the grounds of deconsecrated church, St Dingle, where they meet 'Ethel', short for Ethelbert, performing his devotions in front of altar. After this, he seems to know and turn up where ever they might be, insinuating himself within the family. He charms all of them, a mesmerising figure, making quite the impression. However, he even turns up in London, and you have to wonder how he got the phone number of their ballet obsessed daughter, Flo. At this stage, alarm bells should have been ringing, but Dickie is made redundant, and the families woes pile up with their daughters, particularly Lucy's health issues, she is experiencing seizures that results in Jane giving up her job to take care of her. This makes it paramount that Dickie gets a job, but its not easy, until out of the blue, the dodgy Ethel offers him a lucrative position as Director of Public Affairs at his Making Nice PR agency. Before long, the entire family is being corrupted, once parsimonious, morally upstanding citizens, they are taking numerous 'freebie' holiday hotel breaks, with Flo even acquiring a summer job with the agency. Dickie finds himself out of his depth in Africa which he has to hastily flee, then in the US working on the election campaign of Senator Jerry Faldo with the temptingly beautiful Dr Betsy Broadlee, before he is unceremoniously sent back to Britain. He finds himself tasked with ghostwriting the autobiography of the odious MP, Bryce Wincott, only to then stumble into government as a Special Adviser (SPAD). As matters become increasingly untenable for Dickie and his family with the principles and moral free territory that is the shameless, ego driven Ethel (Is that even his name?), what will he do? This is a terrifically witty, entertaining and perceptive read with its echoes of Evelyn Waugh, where virtually all the characters are unlikable, with the narrative portraying so many of the ills of our world. Highly recommended. Many thanks to the publisher.

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