Friday 16 December 2016

The Good Guy by Susan Beale @Ruby_FMitchell @johnmurrays

A deeply compelling novel set in 1960s suburban America for fans of The Engagements and Tigers in Red Weather.
Ted, a car-tyre salesman in 1960s suburban New England, is a dreamer who craves admiration. His wife, Abigail, longs for a life of the mind. Single-girl Penny just wants to be loved. When a chance encounter brings Ted and Penny together, he becomes enamoured and begins inventing a whole new life with her at its centre. But when this fantasy collides with reality, the fallout threatens everything, and everyone, he holds dear.
The Good Guy is a deeply compelling debut about love, marriage and what happens when good intentions and self-deception are taken to extremes.

The Good Guy by Susan Beale was published in hardback by John Murray Publishers on 16 June 2016, the paperback will be published on 9 March 2017.
The Good Guy is Susan Beale's first novel and has been shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award 2016, the winner will be announced on Tuesday 3 January 2017.

I heard about The Good Guy when I read an article in a magazine about the author, I was intrigued and determined to get hold of and read her novel. I'm so very glad that I did. This really is a wonderfully written, intelligent and astute story, and was inspired by events in the author's own life.

Set in New England in the 1960s, Ted and Abigail appear to be living the 'American Dream', That so-called golden age of the USA where the younger generation were experiencing a prosperity that their parents didn't have, teetering on the verge of a sexual revolution and campaigning for civil rights for all.

Ted is doing well, he's a good salesman for Goodyear. He can afford a new house for him and his young family. He's also a dreamer, desperate for admiration and living in the shadow of his tragic brother Danny. Abigail, his wife, feels trapped. She loves Ted, he's a 'good guy', but an unplanned pregnancy put paid to her college plans. Being a wife and a mother are not enough for her and she plunges into what is clearly post-natal depression. She needs to use her mind and only her lawyer father seems to appreciate her intelligence and ability.

Penny is the third person in the marriage. Penny just wants to be loved, and that is her downfall. That, and meeting Ted. Between them, they create a fantasy world, but only Ted knows that it isn't real. He continues to create a fictional Ted, he doesn't want to hurt anyone, he tries to do what he thinks is right, but his weakness causes pain that will echo for years to come.

It is clear that Susan Beale has done some extensive research when writing this compelling and engaging story. The language, the weather, even the sporting fixtures are described so very well, with real authenticity and feeling.

Beneath the golden exterior, this story exposes the essence of suburban life in this era. Despite being the height of the so-called swinging sixties, it is clear that unmarried pregnant women were shunned, shamed and exiled. Sex education was almost non-existent, birth control was impossible to get hold of and girls who got 'caught' were either forced into a quick, shot-gun marriage or exiled to another county. It was always the woman who was shamed, the men got away with it, going on to marry and become successful, with no black mark against them.

Susan Beale is a gifted author. I enjoyed The Good Guy very much, it's perceptive and at times, harrowing with characters that are very well created.

My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

The Good Guy is inspired by Susan's life. Susan was adopted as a baby and only reconnected with her birth mother several years ago. The inspiration for the book came form her adoption files. The papers include interviews with her mother, grandmother and one with her birth father. As well as helping Susan understand why she was adopted, the papers paint a portrait of America on the cusp of the sexual revolution. It's a time of unprecedented prosperity and conformity. Young people enjoy new freedoms, but gender roles remain clearly defined and expectations of morality and purity are strictly, and sometimes cruelly, enforced. It's a world about to be shaken to its core.

Susan was raised on Cape Cod, lived in Belgium and France, and now lives in the Wells, Somerset. 

Susan has worked as a journalist and editor in the US and Europe.
She is a former competitive figure skater.  She is a recent graduate of the Bath Spa MA in Creative Writing.

The Good Guy is her first novel.


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