Maybe It’s About Time – Neil Boss

Published By: Matador
Pages: 552
Released On: 20/08/2022

Two people trapped in their different worlds. One by wealth and one by poverty. Twenty years working for The Firm has given Marcus Barlow everything he wants but has taken his soul in return. Finding a way to leave has become an obsession.

Claire Halford’s life hits rock bottom when she is caught stealing food from Tesco Express. Left alone by her husband with two small children and an STI, her suicide music is starting to play louder in her head.

A chance meeting brings them together. As a mystery virus from China starts to run riot across the country, their world’s collide and they find they have more in common than they knew.

Set in the early months of 2020, Maybe It’s About Time is a story about the difficulty of changing lives for the better. Starting as a funny and satirical view of the egocentric world of professional services, it gives way to a heart-warming story of an unlikely friendship that rejuvenates Marcus and Claire, giving them both hope for a better future.

*****

Thanks to Neil for the gifted copy of this title in return for an honest review.

I generally don’t like books that revolve around real-life topics such as the pandemic. I go to books for escapism, not to be reminded. I had to live COVID, I don’t want to read it too. But as a gifted copy, I was willing to go in with an open mind, especially given all the positive reviews online. I did enjoy it, but I still will admit that I’m not a huge fan of reading about COVID, I don’t get a huge amount of enjoyment about reliving it, but that’s definitely a personal view. But given that Amazon has over 40 five star reviews, I’m very aware that I am in the minority here.

I did find it a bit too long. I’ve said before, my ideal book length is about 300-350, and I rarely find books warrant being longer than 400 pages. And I’d say this falls into that category. It was good, don’t get me wrong, and I enjoyed it, but I felt a lot of scenes were drawn out, particularly the scenes about Marcus’ job. One or two chapters about his job, I feel would have given us enough background to build up this image of Marcus, but pages and pages of meetings and whatnot just dragged it slightly.

I preferred Claire’s chapters more than Marcus, but I can’t fully say why. I felt more compassion for her. For the single mother, on benefits, trying to raise children, whilst having to sail close to the wind to survive. Whereas the rich man, I found him hard to be compassionate about. I understood his confliction and his wanting to get out of the job and feeling there’s more to life than work etc. but when you’re talking about fees in the millions, having a cleaner in your house, and sending your daughter to a £20,000+ private school, it’s hard to stand the moaning at times. Although he did grow on me.

I liked Marcus and Claire’s interactions though, especially with the third character of Gavin. He straddles the rich/poor divide very well and he’s probably my favourite of the characters. I can’t put my finger on exactly why, but I just found myself looking forward to his scenes more.

I felt the majority of the tone was quite pessimistic, and bizarrely, that suited me as I’m quite a pessimist by nature. But I’d probably say it’s not the most uplifting story, at its core. There’s uplifting bits, and joy amongst the hardships, but it had this undercurrent that I quite liked. I agree that it is definitely a satire, and I think he’s found the right balance between depicting the reality of the situation, but keeping the entertainment value of a fictional book.

And, as I said at the beginning, whilst I’m still not a fan of COVID in fictional books, I think Neil has found a nice balance. There was the novelty about the first lockdown, the family time, nice weather, not a lot of reported illness. But then it suddenly peaked and you had all these people dying and the hardships for the medical staff. He’s found the right balance. He’s not scaremongering but he’s not sugar coating.

This is going to sound maybe contradictory because I said I felt it was a bit slow at times and a bit…everyday. And whilst I agree that is a bit of a negative point, it did have its upsides. Particularly because it could have so easily fallen into caricatures of characters, overegging the rich/poor divide, overegging the pandemic. But it did fall right right side of that.

What I will say though, and I don’t mean this in a way that the book is bad to begin with, because it’s not, but I definitely enjoyed it the further we got into it, into more of the crux of the story and the relationships’ I liked the merging of Marcus’ world and Claire’s world. I felt that was handled very well. And dare I say it, I was feeling quite emotional by the end. Whilst I don’t necessarily think the book was perfect, you are on this journey for over 500 pages and you get to know the characters, you get to like them, you follow them through the ups and the downs and you do become attached, and so you do get emotional when good and and things happen to them.

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