Monday, May 27, 2013

Book Review: The Forced Redundancy Film Club

US cover
By Jami Deise

When I first saw the title of this book by Brian Finnegan, I thought The Forced Redundancy Film Club was about a group of people forced to watch the same films over and over. This goes to show that no matter how many cute romantic comedies I read by adorable British authors, the Queen’s English will never become part of my everyday vernacular. While Finnegan’s book takes place in Dublin, the Irish and the British both use the same term – “forced redundancy” -- to refer to what we in America call “laid off.” I often prefer the British way of putting things – I’m completely enamored of the extra “u” found in words like “colour” – but in this case I think we Americans have got it right. No one goes to work one day to discover that there’s another person who has been doing their exact same job. But hundreds of people every day are still learning that, through no fault of their own, their job has been eliminated.

That’s the situation that co-workers Katherine, Martin, Lisa and Jamie find themselves in when they all lose their jobs at Qwertec. Drowning their sorrows that night, the four decide to form a monthly film-watching club, although none had been especially close friends at work. Katherine insists that Alice, who had not been laid off, also be included, or she won’t participate.

The novel is structured around the monthly meetings, which include films such as Casablanca, To Kill A Mockingbird, and When Harry Met Sally. Between meetings, it focuses on the personal lives of each of the five protagonists. Katherine is the hardest hit by the redundancy, taking menial temp jobs and losing her home and her relationship. Martin finds himself running his alcoholic father’s auto repair shop. Lisa is stuck at home with three young boys – one of whom seems borderline psychotic – and a husband who constantly makes excuses to work late. Jamie is cheating on his boyfriend of seven years with a mentally unbalanced but good-in-bed Iranian. And Alice, having just lost her adoptive mother, goes on a mission to find the woman who gave her up. At the same time, the characters form relationships with each other: There’s a flirtation between Katherine and Martin, and supportive friendships between Jamie and Lisa, and Katherine and Alice.

UK cover
The novel itself is well-written, and other than taking too long to establish its structure of multiple points-of-view, technically flawless. Personally, though, I had a hard time getting into it. Each character’s personal and professional life is in an upheaval, and even though their specific stories are unique, overall it made the chapters feel, well, redundant. None of the characters was going through an epic tragedy that made for great literature, just the everyday crap that keeps piling on. Because of this, it wasn’t until the last few chapters that the novel gained enough momentum to result in a sense of urgency to continue reading. Furthermore, I was expecting that the films themselves would play a bigger part in the book. But other than a few lines of conversation afterward and Katherine remembering how she’d loved her father the way Scout loved Atticus, the characters didn’t learn any major life lessons from the movies they watched. (Jamie really could have learned something if Fatal Attraction had been an early selection, for instance. And Lisa could have learned a few lessons from The Exorcist.)

But the end, though, delivers what the cover promises: “Because everyone deserves a happy ending…” By the last few chapters, the book had my complete attention, and I closed it a satisfied reader. If you’re attracted to the book because of the movie tie-in, however, you’re better off just re-watching the ten movies featured.

Thanks to the author for the book in exchange for an honest review.

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1 comment:

Connie said...

I read your comments with a smile on my face and nodding my head. I could just fit right into living in the UK. I love everything about it. I can bet you that I would be haunting every bookstore I could find buying up all of their chick lit books. That is my absolute favorite genre and I can never get enough of it.