“Meredith at his darkest and funniest. This is the work of a master.” – Tom Bullough
“The most wry, witty and wicket novel I expect to read this year.” – Sheenagh Pugh
'Punctuation killed my wife.’ So opens Christopher Meredith’s novel, Please.
Octogenarian Vernon, who’s never written anything longer than a memo, tries to write the story of his apparently unremarkable courtship and marriage from the 1960s to today. How should he do it? His lifelong obsessions are language and reading; most of what he knows about the world comes from dictionaries and reference books, and from these and the language of old novels he concocts and wrestles with his ‘voice’. From beneath Vernon’s comically elegant struggles and games with language a picture emerges of a man and woman across half a century, of how passion, infidelities, murderous fantasy and obsessions can be undercurrents even in the most ordinary of lives.
Please is a love story about the impossibility of being in love and the impossibility of telling stories. Sophisticated and controlled, it explores how hard it is to know yourself or others, how language has the power to conceal even as it reveals. How much can we know? How much can we say?
Meredith’s fifth novel, full of humanity, sly humour and verbal invention, is his shortest and arguably his funniest, most innovative and most outrageous. It’s a tragicomedy touching on themes of the limits of knowledge, on isolation, and male frailty in new and playful ways. The whole gradually and inexorably unlocks the meanings of its extraordinary opening sentence in a complex and dazzling psychological and linguistic entertainment that ends in a surprising, dreamlike and ultimately moving denouement.
“Not so much a tense novel as a novel about tenses, Please presents Vernon Jones, a self-taught grammarian and language enthusiast as he tries to unscramble life’s fiendish crossword. It’s full of paronomasia, therefore, and all kinds of lexicon-besotted word punning, as befits a real-life poet’s fifth adventure into the novel. Vernon is a lovely creation, a man living in the shadow of his failure in school exams, doomed to work in human resources and madly in love with his palindrome of a wife, Hannah.
Every one of Meredith’s novels has been utterly unlike any of the others and this one shows that one-man tradition to be very much alive. Tender and playful, linguistically inventive and probingly punctuated, this is a book of great heart and insight about new shoes, cuckoldry, Saycian fate and the quiddities of old age. ‘Please’ has many meanings but in the case of this fine novel it means ‘to cause to feel happy and satisfied.’ Indubitably so, as Vernon himself might have put it.” – Jon Gower