reviewed by Frances Churchward.
Robert Webb will be familiar to many as one half of Mitchell and Webb and, perhaps even more so, as Jeremy in PeepShow. Come Again is his first novel. His previous book, How Not To Be A Boy, Webb’s first foray into book writing, was autobiographical.
Initially, I was pleased to be given the opportunity to review this book and my anticipation of enjoyment was quite high. Unfortunately, this did not last long.
Part One of Come Again tells the story of Kate, a woman in her forties, who has been in love with the same man for twenty eight years, Luke, who has just died. We learn about Kate’s intense grief and the extent to which her world is falling apart. She has cut herself off from her friends and has lost her job and is about to self-destruct. Part Two transports, by time travel, the still fully adult Kate back to an earlier period in her life when, as a new undergraduate, she first meets Luke along with the friends whom she has been avoiding since Luke’s death. Kate sets out to change the course of Luke’s life so that he does not die so young. Part Three returns us to the present day and the results of Kate’s actions from Part One and, to some extent, from Part Two.
My irritation with this book increased the further that I read it. My early impressions were slightly more favourable although I found it to be a little slick in places. Using the device of taking the lead character back in time gave Webb the opportunity to make political comments in which, for example, he makes clear his dislike of Trump and Boris Johnson amongst others. I have no issue with Webb’s views here but considered that the comments did not sit particularly well within the context of the narrative.
By the time that I reached Part Three however, I felt that the whole plot had developed into a farce. From a grieving widow, Kate turns into some type of avenging Ninja warrior and, it is at this point that we come to understand why there has been a considerable focus in the narrative on Kate’s past triumphs as a martial arts champion. I found all of the action in this final part of the novel to be palpably absurd and any interest that I may previously have had in the plot dissolved completely.
I was very disappointed by this book. If it is a light read that one is after, it may fit the bill although it seems like a bit of a contradiction to suggest that a story about a grieving widow might constitute a light read. Webb received considerable praise for his previous, autobiographical publication but I very much regret that I do not feel able to echo that praise for this current offering.
Published by Canongate March 2020. Available from good bookshops, including October Books in Portswood, Southampton.