The Adulterants by Joe Dunthorne
Joe Dunthorne’s third novel, set in east London in 2011, is an enjoyable satire on modern social mores, said Carl Wilkinson in the FT. Ray is a thirtysomething tech journalist – an “underachiever caught in a trap of irony and angst” – whose wife, Garthene, is expecting a baby. The couple dream of buying a house, but can’t manage even an “over-priced maisonette in an undesirable neighbourhood”. The story opens with Ray trying to cheat on his wife. From there, he follows a downward trajectory, reminiscent of Paul Pennyfeather’s in Decline and Fall, which proves “oddly pleasurable” to read about. This is a “properly funny” novel, said Natasha Tripney in The Observer. But the comedy is “always balanced by insight and poignancy”.
Dunthorne, whose debut novel, Submarine, was turned into a well-received film, has never lacked “hipster credibility”, said James Marriott in The Times. Line by line, he can be very funny, but in The Adulterants, unfortunately, he lays the humour on too thick, averaging about “three smart comments a page”. As a result, “the reader’s indulgent smile becomes strained”.