“The Hopeless Life of Charlie Summers” by Paul Torday

hopelesslifecharliesummers1.jpeg This is really the story of two men – both “operators” in their own way.

Set in England, it follows the career of a businessman from a privileged class who has risen to the position of greeter for an investment firm. After time in the army, as well as working for Security Offices, he uses his connections to get to the top of his position in a world where everyone seems to have money to invest.

Alongside this success story runs the life of a much lower entrepreneur, called Charlie Summers. Whether in London, or in small English towns, every enterprise he undertakes, with such high hopes, seems to capsize beneath him, leaving him more and more destitute as the book goes on. The story throws these two men together over a series of coincidences, starting in the south of France and continuing in England.

As things turn out, and as we have been watching in the financial news these last years, the investment world rather suddenly turns upside down, leaving the wealthy greeter not only out on the street, but in a difficult position facing AlQaeda representatives who abruptly reveal their true colours. In a startling ending, Charlie Summers once again turns up. This time, as the “Financial Times” writes, he attains “real pathos at the end of this affecting, skilfully crafted novel”.

Paul Torday made his mark on the literary scene with his first novel, “Salmon Fishing on the Yemen” in 2006. This is his fourth novel and shows the same fine writing and deft and likeable comedy.

Review by Anne McDougall