Thursday, 20 January 2011

Girlfriend 44 by Mark Barrowcliffe

Harry is looking for the One. He's spent years looking for her and tried out 43 women in his quest to find her. When she walks into his life, he doesn't expect it - and then realises that his best mate Gerrard is also trying to win her heart. It seems that there really is nothing fair in love or war, as both men try to sabotage each other - and themselves - in their efforts to make Alice the One.

I picked up Girlfriend 44 for a few reasons. The first is that Mark Barrowcliffe published his debut fantasy novel Wolfsangel under the name M D Lachlan last year - I loved that book, and was interested to see what he could do within a different genre. I'm also keen on men writing in the field of chick lit, since it seems to be an ideal way to see what men really are thinking! *grin* I was expecting a light, funny read that I could easily pick up and put down, and would be briefly amused by.

Rather than this, I got a biting portrayal of real life men in slightly farcical circumstances. The banter is bitter, the humour is puerile in the most part, and the men are distinctly unlikeable. But it does come across as incredibly realistic, as Barrowcliffe covers the ways in which men will dump women and the criteria they have for picking women.

The humour in the novel is uneven and scattershot, but I did find myself laughing out loud on more than one occasion. More often I was slightly mystified, but I suspect a guy would have been howling.

I enjoyed the characters, which are larger than life and easy to poke fun at. I rather marvelled at the idea that people like this exist (although a brief conversation with Mark revealed that he based Gerrard and Farley on real characters, which is a massive worry of mine - because it means they are out there walking the street, and there is a faint chance I might meet them by accident!)

What concerned me about this novel is how missold it seemed. It carries the sort of cover that shouts 'chick lit' and I was expecting something along the lines of Mike Gayle - cosy and sweet and trying to present the idea of men as being nice people who don't try to pull women just for the sex. Barrowcliffe is the vicious antidote to Gayle's saccharine sweetness, and it takes some effort to get through the initial shock and embrace the darker elements of the novel.

As I've come to expect from Mark, it was well-written (especially considering this one was his true debut in the literary world, although not too surprising if you take into account his journalistic background), but probably overlong at nigh on 500 pages.

I will seek out some more of Mark's earlier work, but I won't revisit this novel again! For a single 30-something girl, it hit a little too close to home *grins* If you want to read this, I would suggest that you make sure you're in a wonderful and warm, loving relationship and then tackle it - so that you don't end up scared at the prospect of encountering these men when you put yourself out there!


  1. God, that's depressing! I doubt I would have read it anyway, but thanks for the warning!

  2. Can't seem to get this to register my name. Anyway, it's me, Mark Barrowcliffe. For God's sake don't read Infidelity for First Time Fathers or you'll never speak to me, or a man, again.
    You have actually met Gerrard, I think, at the launch at Forbidden Planet. He's a dark haired, quite intense chap. It might chill you further to know he works as a counsellor. He's actually very nice but - like a lot of men - he has the heart of little boy underneath.
    I'd recommend Lucky Dog and I'll try to bring a copy next time I see you. I got a bit tired of doing cynical characters so that was my bid to write someone nice. I think it's my best mainstream novel, though it isn't that mainstream as it contains a talking dog.
    I agree Girlfriend 44 is overlong and scattershot. I had a lifetime of jokes and I tried to put every one into it. Still, I think it's a unique novel - in style and content - and it drew some favourable comparisons to Martin Amis and Terry Southern. I was certainly more influenced by them when I was writing it than I was Mike Gayle or Nick Hornby.

  3. I loved Lucky Dog! It's one of those books you can pick up again and again.. i thought the humour was brilliant and had me laughing out loud on numerous occasions!
    I have only recently purchased Girlfriend 44 thinking it would be in the same vein and now i'm concerned! Is girlfriend 44 going to make me hate men? =S Is it not as light humoured as the wonderful lucky dog?
    I will give it a go nonetheless, but i seriously hope it's not as depressing as you've made it sound!