Terms and Conditions by Robert Glancy

In brief: Frank had an accident and has trouble remembering who he was beforehand. As the pieces fall into place, he realises that he’s more than a ‘terms and conditions’ man.

The good: So funny with many quotable quotes.

The not-so-good: Occasionally lost track of which statement the footnote referenced.

Why I chose it: Sent to me by Bloomsbury Sydney and The Reading Room – thank you!

Year: 2014

Pages: 248 (ARC)

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Setting: England

My rating: 9.5 out of 10

Terms and Conditions is a fantastically funny book that takes into account serious issues – then annihilates them in an original way. Don’t be put off by the title – while very few (if any) of us read the fine print of competitions, policies and our iTunes accounts, Glancy’s fine print will have you devouring the footnotes. These wonderfully humorous annotations on the main text add to our understanding of the workings of our protagonist’s mind and contribute some wonderful quotes that you’d never share with your boss.

The story starts out as Frank finds himself in a hospital bed, with no idea how he got there. Hell, he doesn’t even know who he is! His wife Alice and brother Oscar start telling him his life, piece by piece. It seems to Frank (or Franklyn, as everyone now wants to call him) that he had a pretty boring life before the accident. He was a lawyer, who wrote terms and conditions for contracts. He made sure the little person could never claim fully on insurance and that contracts were watertight for the company. He maximised profit and greed at the loss of the little person. Alice and Oscar tell Frank he was a meek person – no problem at home or work, always the good guy.

But then parts of Frank’s memory start coming back. He finds a book called Executive X and a grotesque jar hiding in his house. What do these mean and why are they hidden? Why is there suddenly a new door at work? Where do these people go? Others tell Frank he’s losing his mind, but really he’s just getting it back. This new version of Frank is going to set things to rights, and he’s starting with the fine print…

It’s the humour that this book is told with that makes it a standout. Frank is a truly lovable character, particularly as his flaws are displayed clearly to the reader as he rediscovers them! His footnotes are even more entertaining (especially when there’s footnotes to the footnote) as he reveals both his deeper, darker thoughts and a wicked sense of humour. It’s warts and all stuff, which you could liken to Professor Don Tillman in The Rosie Project –another book that is just as funny but with a completely different plot. The other characters are just as wonderful – Oscar, Frank’s brother, boss and odious villain, is written with just enough grotesqueness to make you squirm. Alice, Frank’s wife, is a multilayered character that even Frank takes some time to unpeel. Her ultimate revelation will floor you. Then there’s the good guys – Malcolm, Frank’s brother who travels the world (and has the establishment defying phrase of ‘f*ck this’) and Doug, the actuary who is full of wisdom and statistics.

What I also enjoyed about Terms and Conditions was the way the book is divided up. The book is divided into sections called Conditions and each chapter titled ‘Terms and Conditions of…’ (e.g. My Wife, Dead Voice, Gluten Free, Mushroom Soup). Each chapter will have several footnotes further explaining the situation, or Frank’s inner thoughts. Surprisingly, the footnotes don’t break up the narrative but add both richness and honesty. (For example, one footnote simply states, ‘Work kills’. Statistics can’t argue with that!)

I’d highly recommend Terms and Conditions based on the humour alone, but added to the wonderful character of Frank and the tale of self-discovery this is a must read. I think this book will be huge this year, so jump on the bandwagon and start reading the fine print…

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