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Books | The Guardian ([info]theguardianbook) wrote,
@ 2020-02-26 09:00:00

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Theft by Luke Brown review – black comedy of sexualised class war
A enigmatic chancer worms his way into a world of privilege and power in this pithy satirical novel

The narrator of Luke Brown’s second novel is “a white male from the north of England, small town, moribund, working class-cum-middle-class … a reader, an autodidact, a would-be escapee”. Paul is a bookseller and occasional hack; he writes two columns – one about books, the other about haircuts – for a fashion magazine. With his beard, thick-rimmed glasses and garish bicycle, he could be your typical hipster. But he feels like an impostor in his east London milieu. When he meets a mercurial novelist called Emily, he believes he has found a kindred spirit: “Her Glaswegian accent was carefully enunciated … she might have planed the edges off it herself, like I had done with mine, sliver by sliver, to wedge between where we had been and where we now wanted admittance.”

Emily lives in an affluent part of town with her much older partner, Andrew, a distinguished conservative public intellectual. Andrew has a daughter, Sophie, an expensively educated Marxist and wannabe journalist in her early 20s. Emily is dismissive of her, remarking that “the egalitarianism she professes is abstract rather than intuitive”. Paul then meets Sophie at a book launch and they engage in some flirtatious sparring about privilege, identity politics and Philip Roth. A thoroughly unwholesome scenario duly unfolds: Paul befriends Andrew, and sets about the task of seducing both his partner and his daughter simultaneously.

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