The Planner is Tom Campbell’s second novel following on from his debut Fold which was published to critical acclaim.
The main protagonist in The Planner is James, a town planner in a local authority whose career and life seems to be stalling whilst his university friends careers are progressing accumulating wealth and prestige on the way.
Worse than that, he is now in his thirties and feels like he has missed the boat, his pursuit of his career in Town Planning was worthwhile but had he forgotten to live life to the full in his “roaring” twenties ?
Attending the office he begins to suspect he will end up like his colleagues especially Lionel his boss, ” Poor old deciduous old Lionel , with his dry skin and wet eyes , his pink nose and unhappy pouch, the seasons hadn’t been good to him. He had ineffectually chaired too many meetings, watched too many PowerPoints and dunked too many biscuits into mugs of sugared coffee.”
To get over his malaise, James talks to Felix a successful Brand Planner who suggests that James needs a plan, a new worldview to enter the glamorous London world to which he aspires.
Felix introduces James to the world of private clubs, executive boxes, book launches, art galleries, drugs and exotic women.
But a walk through the City of London gives James time to consider his situation ” The City , the whole of London, has detached itself from the rest of the country , and become instead a global capital for culture and commerce, for vanity and greed. You can only succeed here if you could forget everything you learnt in England . But he wasn’t like Felix or Alice : he was essentially a provincial , with provincial aspirations and fears.”
It is the two sides of James’s character that provides the considerable humour in the book, his adventures and misadventures in the different areas of London show real insight into some of the absurdities and contradictions of the capital.
The book could be seen as provincial innocent being slowly corrupted in the ways of the big city, but this is not a simple morality tale , in many ways the author plays with this well-worn theme by allowing his main protagonist to question the ethics and amoral behaviour of many of the characters he meets. However that does not always mean his own behaviour is particularly ethical when sometimes the pursuit of new experiences overrides his common sense.
Most biting satires work when they are based on truth, and anyone who has moved around London’s cultural landscape would instantly recognise many of the characters that populate this book.
This well written and intriguing book populated by believable characters would appeal to anyone who would like to make sense of 21st century London and is willing to be amused by many of its foibles and strange entertainments.
But equally the book is a personal journey of an individual trying to make sense of the city both though its physical buildings but also in a human sense as a solitary lonely person in a city of 7 million.
Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended
If you would to find out more about the book or buy a copy, visit the publisher’s website here
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