Drowning in summer school, yet there is a light at the end of the tunnel in that it ends on Thursday. I go on vacation the following week, and I am already salivating over the copious amounts of books I will read while lounging on the beach with a very potent potable in my hand. Expect more frivolous, light reading!
In my quest to continue reading light fiction while toiling away in summer school, I read The Friendship Test by Elizabeth Noble. In this book four friends–Reagan, Tamsin, Freddie, and Sarah–meet at Oxford in the mid-80s and somehow form a bond based on an old miniseries. Calling themselves The Tenko Club after the miniseries, the book deals with their frienship and lives post-Oxford, primarily in 2004 though it does bounce back and forth from the present (2004) to various points after Oxford. The test in the title refers to drama going on in Freddie’s life and the situations that arise in response.
Ehhh, it was all right. I felt that all four characters weren’t fully drawn. They seemed rather stereotypical: exotic, somewhat wild Freddie; motherly Tamsin who is suposed to represent the stable center of their circle with her marriage to her college boyfriend and 4 children; Sarah, who is incredibly beautiful yet dies young; and Reagan, prickly, career-driven and somewhat unstable. You also see the action through the men’s eyes: upper-crust, worthless Adrien; hard-working family man and doctor Neil; suffering Matthew who is ready to move on after years spent devoted to Sarah’s memory. Maybe if there had been more time spent on the establishment of The Tenko Club early on, the friendships would have felt fuller, more real, but they didn’t. And all the women clearly disliked Reagan. Why keep her around? Why not let that friendship die? And why is she so freaking unhappy?
Freddie’s crises are meant to be profound I think, yet I found them rather mundane and hum-drum. Noble constantly shifts perspective so that one minute you might be seeing things from Freddie’s point of view and then the next, from Neil’s or Matthew’s. It’s jarring, and I don’t think it helps the plot. Bottom line, there wasn’t much to make me identify with these characters or like them.
This book was Noble’s second, and I fear it suffers from sophomore slump. I prefer her much better first novel, The Reading Group.