Terms & Conditions Synopsis:
Frank has been in a car accident*. The doctor tells him he lost his spleen, but Frank believes he has lost more. He is missing memories – of the people around him, of the history they share and of how he came to be in the crash. All he remembers is that he is a lawyer who specialises in small print. But when Oscar, his brother, takes the family company into business with an inventively cruel arms manufacturer** and Alice, his wife, starts to seem oddly unlike the woman he remembers, Frank’s world starts to unspool and the terms and conditions that he has lived his life by*** begin to change.
*apparently quite a serious one
**who cannot be named for legal reasons
***and which are rarely in his favour
I’ve often found there are benefits in letting a book rest before penning my review. Our subconscious mind is a wonderful filter, dimming the situational or mood-related observations and bringing to the forefront the unique and original elements of a book. Never more so has a title benefited from rest than Terms & Conditions by Robert Glancy.
At the moment I finished Terms & Conditions I would have given it a 4 star rating. I was feeling a little harried at the time and despite all the wonderful factors I will elaborate on below, the predictability of the plot and the use of profanity stood out for me. But really, the predictability of the plot was disclosed upfront – the blurb tells us Frank has amnesia so it is pretty obvious how this story is ‘generally’ going to unfold. And the profanity, although more than I’d expected, was credible given the levels of frustration the narrator was experiencing.
What makes Robert Glancy’s Terms & Conditions stand out from the crowd is how ingeniously Frank’s story is told.
Yes, the story framework (chapters and their content) is written in the style of a legal contract.
Yes, the author uses footnotes, lots of them, to convey the difference between what the narrator voices and his private thoughts.
But it’s much more than the innovative formatting and gimmicky elements.
Glancy’s skill for penning snappy dialogue is first rate and on the back of that sits some of the best comic timing I have experience. People often say things are laugh-out-loud funny, but for this novel that is a literal descriptor. Yes, I was grinning and giggling to myself while reading – behaviour I think my dogs found slightly perplexing. [I will never think about office furniture placement in the same way again! Hilarious…]
But what I only fully realised after letting this story rest is that humour of this quality does not come about without wonderfully realised audacious characters and Terms & Conditions is filled with them. There are characters to hate – his repugnant older brother Oscar and superficial wife Alice. There are characters to adore – a wonderful old lady Molly, the eccentric actuary Doug and Frank’s free-spirited younger brother Malcom. In fact the one-sided missives from Malcom peppered throughout the novel are sublime – top-shelf comedy. I cannot wait to read a sequel featuring this character!
[Note I do not yet have confirmation there will be a sequel to Terms & Conditions, but I do know Glancy signed a two-book deal, so I live in hope.]
For those that don’t like footnotes, please do not let this put you off reading Terms & Conditions by this talented debut author. The reading experience is colourful, fast-paced, funny and heartfelt – completely opposite to contractual terms and conditions.
BOOK RATING: The Story 4.5 / 5 ; The Writing 4.5 / 5
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Genre: Mystery, Drama, Romance, Humour, Literature
Author Information: Robert Glancy was born in Zambia and raised in Malawi. At fourteen he moved from Africa to Edinburgh then went on to study history at Cambridge. He currently lives in New Zealand with his wife and children.
* My receiving a paperback copy of this title from Bloomsbury for review purposes in no way hindered the expression of my honest opinions in the above.