English Settlement

D. J. Taylor

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01 March 2012
312 pages

Nervously monitored from a twelfth-floor eyrie near Blackfriars, Scott Marshall’s world looks as if it’s falling apart. It’s late 1990 in the City of London, the Iraqis are in Kuwait, the Old Lady’s sick (Mrs Thatcher, not the Bank of England) and the wild times are over. The only thing a thirtysomething Anglo-American with a job at KLS, the legendarily predatory management consultants, an eating phobia and some exalted social connections can do is sit tight and weather the storm.

Walham Town, the struggling fourth division football side (‘We’re not one of your glamour clubs’) now launched on an unlooked-for cup-run by their megalomaniac chairman, seems a safe bolt-hole. But Walham’s shattered finances harbour a nest of deceit and subterfuge. Meanwhile, secretive, anonymous Miranda is steadily rearranging Scott’s emotional life, his father’s plans to visit have released all kinds of ghosts from their shared past, and his boss’s intrigues with a brace of City cronies may or may not rebound to his advantage.

As these parallel lines start to converge, Scott’s position turns ever less secure. The arrival of Scott’s ailing father, with some bizarre ideas on how to spend his vacation, could hardly come at a worse moment. . .

Taking place on a pontoon bridge between America and England and supplying an insider’s view of how the City works, D. J. Taylor’s third novel is a penetrating examination of national identity (on both sides of the Atlantic), missed connections in family life, and the way we behave to the people we love.