John Osborne is a very, very funny poet whose mini book of poetry What If Men Burst In Wearing Balaclavas I have on my desk to read if things are feeling a bit bleak at work.
Full disclosure – John is a friend of a friend, so there is a slim chance he’ll read this. I wouldn’t have been negative if he was a random author but it might have led me to like it more than I would have otherwise. It’s difficult to know, really.
The Newsagent’s Window follows John as he moves back to Norwich, where he went to university. A lot of his friends are married or with children now, so spurred on by a successful car boot sale, to entertain himself he decides to start replying to any newsagent ads that catch his eye. He ends up being massaged by a psychic who tells him how to sort his life out, buying a car he absolutely can’t afford, almost moving to the seaside, seeing a wrestling match in a pub, and generally getting to know Norwich and the people in it much better as a result.
There are some genuinely laugh out loud moments in this, but overall it is an easy, gentle read that made me think “ah, bless” on a regular basis. I also used to live in Norwich, so it was nice to reminisce about St Andrew’s Church and the Golden Triangle through John’s eyes.
I did sometimes feel that he was holding something back and we weren’t getting the full picture of his life in Norwich, which could be a bit frustrating. I would have liked to find out more about his job and his friends, who were just very roughly sketched out. And I don’t think that he did end up taking massage Lucy’s advice to say no more and let his feelings out more. He makes a huge gesture to someone in the epilogue who turns him down, but because we don’t have a huge sense of how much he feels for her, it doesn’t feel as dramatic as it might of done. He also doesn’t seem that put out by the rejection!
Anyway, I still really enjoyed reading this. It was weirdly soothing. Overall, this was a really sweet book and I hope John is able to be a bit less of a permanent nice guy now.
The Newsagent’s Window by John Osborne