Cold Calling, by Russell Mardell, is a story of friendship, love and heartache in the modern world. It is populated by recognisable characters. There are the narcissists, the struggling, the singletons who wishfully consider marriage, and the married who worry about the freedom they have sacrificed for their stable job, house, vaguely disatisfied partner, and the responsibilties these bring. Each are wittily observed and gently mocked, asides in a story of two strangers who can be honest with each other because they never expect to meet, their relationship being confined to occasional conversations over the phone.
Ray English has moved from Southport to London with his best friend, Danny, in an attempt to put behind him the love of his life, Katie, who left him five years ago. Ray is in counselling having staggered from broken hearted through anger to find himself stuck in self pitying delusionment. Ray wants to recover but does not know how. He works at an insurance firm, cold calling customers in an attempt to sell to them. One evening he calls Len Belmont and strikes up a conversation with his wife, Anya. Unbeknown to Ray, Anya is still suffering a hangover of negative thoughts emanating from her low key fortieth birthday party.
Anya lives in Salisbury and nurses a secret that has shaped her life. She loves her husband and supports her successful writer friend, Eva, who is agonising over the publicity required for the imminent release of her second book for children. Eva dislikes children. She vociferously denigrates any fan who seeks to meet a writer, bemoaning their need to do more than appreciate their books.
When Ray and Danny are invited by an old friend, Tim, to reform their college band for his wedding, Ray is reluctant as he worries Katie may be there and does not know how he would cope. Anya tells him that he needs to find closure, to face his demons. Meanwhile Eva invites Anya to temporarily step outside her carefully narrowed world to assist on the dreaded book tour. As both Ray and Anya risk the unknown they turn to each other for help with burdens they dare not share with those they know.
Enmeshed within the story are pithy observations.
“Tim had been the swotty kid who envied the cool kids, who was always destined to become the rich man the penniless cool men all wished they were.”
There are comments on music snobbery, reminicent of book snobbery, the opinions of the arrogant buffs who feel compelled to pontificate on what anyone with any taste or intelligence should want to listen to as if personal enjoyment were irrelevent. Here is the self appointed expert on dramatic art:
“earnest, pompous and angry, she had the holy trinity of shit theatre”
The story is expertly crafted, amusingly perceptive and intriguing. I recognised many of the characters. I enjoyed considering why it can be easier to open up to a stranger. Take away the concern over what the hearer may think, how they will judge, or how what is said may become fodder for gossip amongst mutual acquaintances, and there is freedom to be honest. If only we could all be better listeners, less judgemental with family and friends.
I also mused over why so many young men wish to be in a band. I could find no answer to that.
The denouement was neatly done, a twist that adds interest to the inspiration for the story.
I rarely accept self published works but am glad that I agreed to review this. It is thought provoking, original and smartly written. An enjoyable read that I wholeheartedly recommend to all.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the author.