The Ha-Ha

A feel-good comedy of friends reunited

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Pub Date 28 Mar 2024 | Archive Date 29 Feb 2024
Duckworth, Farrago Books

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A modern country house farce with a diverse cast of characters

Fred Twistleton is about to turn forty. Gathering with his friends to celebrate at a rented stately home, he finally hopes to get together with his college crush, the woman of his dreams, Heather. But Fred is also keen to publish his memoirs, and Heather realises the revelations they contain could threaten her career as a high-flying foreign correspondent.

When the treasured manuscript goes missing under mysterious circumstances, Fred’s at a loss. Could someone have stolen it? Where has the resident pig gone? And will all the group remain friends by the end of the weekend? With burst pipes, sunken kayaks, and suspicious puddings, thank goodness Fred is only going to have one fortieth birthday.

A modern country house farce with a diverse cast of characters

Fred Twistleton is about to turn forty. Gathering with his friends to celebrate at a rented stately home, he finally hopes to get...

A Note From the Publisher

For PR queries, contact Dusty Miller

For marketing queries, contact Rob Wilding

For sales queries, contact Matt Casbourne

For PR queries, contact Dusty Miller

For marketing queries, contact Rob Wilding

For sales queries, contact Matt Casbourne

Advance Praise

'A blissful social comedy, stuffed with cherishable lines' Lissa Evans

'A blissful social comedy, stuffed with cherishable lines' Lissa Evans

Marketing Plan

  • Major publicity campaign: author features, reviews, radio/TV appearances
  • Tom Shakespeare, a popular and charismatic speaker, is available for events and festivals
  • Extensive bookshop outreach and author tour – with some fantastic POS material up for grabs. Contact Rob Wilding (email address in 'Notes')
  • Huge social media drive – author is very active with an incredibly engaged following on X (formerly Twitter)
  • Major publicity campaign: author features, reviews, radio/TV appearances
  • Tom Shakespeare, a popular and charismatic speaker, is available for events and festivals
  • Extensive bookshop outreach and author...

Available Editions

EDITION Hardcover
ISBN 9781788424776
PRICE £14.99 (GBP)

Available on NetGalley

NetGalley Shelf App (EPUB)
Send to Kindle (EPUB)
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Average rating from 10 members

Featured Reviews

A very entertaining read in the style of P.G. Wodehouse's Blandings Castle stories. Full of quirky but mostly likeable characters in fairly ridiculous situations over a weekend to celebrate a 40th birthday. Some real chuckle aloud moments. Absolute star in 7 year old Freya and even a pig in the mix

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Tom Shakespeare pays an homage to PG Wodehouse with his new book, The Ha-Ha. The opening chapters are gloriously Wodehousian with Fred “as sunny as a globally-warmed summer afternoon” and Roddy managing “to be both young and middle-aged simultaneously, like one of the Miliband brothers.” I almost wept with joy when a pig was brought into the story, albeit a much, much smaller one than the Empress of Blandings.

Fred has hired a country house for his fortieth birthday party and invited the few friends and family to whom he is close. Unfortunately, he announces that he’s writing his memoirs – and several of those friends and family feature in some embarrassing revelations. However, Fred also mentions that there is only one electronic copy of the memoirs – on a USB stick in his bedroom – and only one printed copy, currently in Sonia’s bedroom. Unsurprisingly, both go missing and even Fred has to recognise that it looks like an inside job, despite everyone professing to love him.

The overt emulation of Wodehouse becomes much lighter after the first few chapters as the author lets his own light humorous style shine. It struck me as parallel to Wodehouse but Shakespeare’s own. (I can’t describe it as Shakespearian as that would invoke the wrong thoughts – sorry, Mr Shakespeare!) I had the image of the author starting as a pupil of Wodehouse but then graduating to become a fellow author, greeted with great pleasure by Wodehouse in the club bar.

I laughed out loud at many passages but the book also has poignant moments. People are revealed as they really are: some are good and kind, like Polly; some are more self-centred than Fred realised. Overall, this is a heart-warming book (“feel-good” in trendy parlance) and one that I shall keep to re-read when I need cheering up. And I shall especially re-read the passage containing this dialogue:
‘Would you like to earn a fiver?’
‘Oh yes, please, Aunty Charlotte!’ [Seven-year-old Freya] beamed wide.
‘If you can hit Uncle Roddy on the bum with an arrow, it’s yours.’

I'm sure PG Wodehouse would have bought Tom Shakespeare a G&T as a reward for what happens next.

#TheHaHa #NetGalley

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A country house farce of Wodehousian proportions in this contemporary comedy of manners and wit with a dollop of mystery thrown in for perfect measure as Fred’s fortieth birthday party at a rented stately home turns chaotic. A babble of deftly drawn eccentric and eclectic characters populate a madcap plot peppered with humour and littered with puns - not to mention the odd but most necessary pig. A rather glorious conglomeration of Wodehousian farce coupled with lashings of Wilt and the authors own and very evident wonderful sense of humour and satire. Delicious!

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Fred is about to turn 40 and invites his friends to a National Trust estate for the weekend to celebrate,
He is busy writing his memoirs but, they contain things that some of his friends would rather forget.

The manuscript gets stolen and the search begins. Who did it? Was there a conspiracy? Who gets the girl at the end?

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Very well written and very tongue in cheek, The Ha-Ha reminded me a little of Tom Sharpe and a little of Alan Partridge in the style of humour

The only problem I had was difficulty in relating to the characters although having experienced many of them at one time or another!

A quick read and a great caper

Thank you to NetGalley for the eARC. This review is left of my own volition

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I'm a keen reader and have this kind of blasé attitude towards any book related with comedy, but this time, and it did not happen in years, I was totally charmed and under the spell of The Ha-Ha. I'm going to offer this book as gifts and I'm convincing anyone I can to read it. It is pure British charm, not always gentleness ( from some characters), But, if Jane Austen could write today we can suppose she would be on the same tracks concerning the characterisation and charm of the protagonists and of the general atmosphere, of the dialogues and the inventiveness of the plot. This is the book to have in the genre in your library, and to cherish. I hope to read more from Tom Shakespeare, the sooner the better !
All my opinions are mine, thank you to the author and NeTGalley.

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When you write a novel larded with P.G. Wodehouse tropes -- a gathering at a country house; a scandalous unpublished memoir; names like Threepwood, Twistleton and Eulalie; and a pampered pig with an immense appetite -- and if you intend to do a Wodehouse impersonation, it had better be *very* good so you aren't merely emphasizing the difference between you and arguably the funniest writer in the English language. I imagine this is something the Wodehouse estate, after commissioning a few latter-day Jeeves novels, has learned. There's no way of getting good Wodehouse prose anymore short of necromancy.

Fortunately, Tom Shakespeare doesn't attempt an impersonation. His Wodehouse-isms don't weigh down what turns out to be a funny, completely enjoyable story on its own terms about a gathering of college friends, now entering middle age, at a rented stately home to mark one of the group's 40th birthday.

There's (among others) a minor Labour politician and a newspaper columnist, sourly married; a beautiful, globetrotting TV news reporter; an underachieving loner who lives in his van; a psychiatrist and his glamorous Costa Rican boyfriend, whose interests include, ominously, both patisserie and poisonous frogs; and a literary agent who thinks the manuscript, written by the birthday boy, a rural lawyer, is publishable. Several of the others, fearing the tales of youthful adventure that might be exposed, plan to ensure it never crosses a publisher's desk.

The lawyer has used a wheelchair since a horrific traffic accident near a nudist colony 20 years ago that left him with an unshakeable terror of naked women. Will he ever find fulfillment as an author and/or lover? Shakespeare keeps the tone light. He has a knack for similes ("Polly now heard and looked across at the two men, who both stood ... waving their arms and gesticulating, as if age had not been kind to one third of the Village People," and, of a man covered with lipstick marks after a tryst, "Queasy and furious in equal measure, his face looked like a watermelon that had been dropped from a great height"). He also knows something about certain types of friendship:

"Ever since the Accident, poor Fred has connected nudity with disaster. ... Fred now finds nudity very traumatic. On top of being unable to walk, relationships are no end of trouble."

"That's wonderful!" Sophia exclaimed, before quickly correcting herself. "I mean, what an awful story!"

All in all, maybe a more enjoyable Wodehouse tribute than the official ones by Sebastian Faulks and Ben Schott.

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I spent an amusing couple of days immersed in the story Fred And his long-term friends who he is invited to a rented, stately home for a weekend celebration for his 40th birthday. There’s a whole cast of characters all with the amusing quirks, Fred himself was paralysed after a serious road traffic accident . Luckily, the houses wheelchair accessible as of the gardens were quite a lot of the activity happens.
The book is Light and entertaining,you do have to suspend your disbelief, a little bit for example, when one of the main characters vomits every time he sees a naked woman after being involved in a disastrous car crash in a nudist but this is what good writing allows you to do, you think this is ridiculous but nevertheless thoroughly enjoy it . The characters are instantly recognisable, perhaps you’ve seen them on a an episode of a TV drama, think Doctors without the medical stuff or Midsomer murders. The fact that you immediately recognise this cast of characters makes them somehow even more enjoyable.
The author has an easily read writing style. The book was a an enjoyable comfort read . There were some truly ridiculous sentences “rippling tintabulation “made me snigger and amusing characters such as the seven year-old daughter of one of the friends who spends the weekend chasing around house guests to find someone to listen to her recorder playing .Even the song that she’s playing Frère Jacques would raise a smile on anyone whose children had learnt the recorder.
The book is well crafted and describes the weekend as it happens, there’s a backward sort of mystery where we know who’s stolen something and watch as they blunder on with their ridiculous plan Without giving away any spoilers, Vietnamese, potbellied pig scene on the front of the book plays an important part. I really enjoyed the end, quite perfect.
I think this book would be just the thing to pack if you’re going on a weekend getaway somewhere in the UK it’s delightfully British, eccentric fun and unless you are a really slow reader you’ll be able to finish it in a weekend.
It’s not often that I read a novel written by somebody who I know anything about in real life, Tom Shakespeare has really used his own experiences and background to enhance his novel I know he is an experienced writer and journalist, but I believe this is his first novel .I hope he’s writing more because I for one will be looking out for his next one.
I read an early copy of the book on NetGalley UK. The book is published on the 28th of March 2024 by Duckworth Farrago books.
This review will appear on NetGalley, UK, Goodreads, and my book, blog, after publication the review will also appear on Amazon, UK

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