Email etiquette

<strong>Welcome to the Working Week</strong>

Paul Vlitos <em>Orion, 356pp, £9.99</em>

Martin Sargent has broken up with his girlfriend. She’s seeing David, a pretentious theatre director, and Martin’s new room-mate appears to be decidedly lacking in the basic skills of domestic hygiene. Then, on his first date with Laura, the girl in his office on whom he’s been harbouring a crush, he gets brain-meltingly drunk, hijacks a karaoke machine and pokes her in the eye.

This is standard lad-lit fare, but Paul Vlitos puts a distinctive spin on things by having the entire novel told through emails exchanged by the various characters. He astutely observes the way that many people communicate these days, mainly through quickly fired-off (and sometimes regretted) electronic missives, but once the central device is established, the novel doesn’t really have anywhere to go. There is an attempt to inject weight into proceedings by looking at how his characters react to the 7/7 bombings, their constant stream of flippant banter suddenly revealed as empty, but it is a short-lived stab at something more serious.

Vlitos’s writing style has an easy comic touch, but there have been far sharper dissections of office culture, and despite some genuinely amusing moments, the novel quickly starts to feel tired and gimmicky.

This article first appeared in the 08 October 2007 issue of the New Statesman, Election fever