It starts with a magical touch, and a despairing look at the life of a broken family. And it goes uphill from there. There are moments where the book seems about to be taking a sinister turn, but instead it surprises the reader. A quite adorable tale indeed.
It is a very easy read, has a simple story told from the point of view of a precocious school-going teenager Gabriel. Kureishi managers to keep the narrative as well as the ideas extremely simple without losing any credibility at all. What we see in-front of us in the book is London with its motley populace, with stories of inhabitants intertwined and where opportunities seem to be hovering around every corner:
What a bright place London was, he (Gabriel) thought. Here anything could be achieved! You only had to wish high enough!
Opportunities waiting to be grasped by all but the hopelessly self-destructive. And Kureshi's London seems to have many of those, which somehow rings true with London we see today.
It is amusing to see him trying to avoid vulgarity just like Dickens tried to keep the young readers in the dark about Phillip's exploits in London, but only in Garbiel's thoughts and words. He carefully avoids any detailed descriptions of Speedy's pose or what secret things happened in the bathroom while he drew his mother and her company or the indelicacy of bed's creaking while he was hidden under it. However, whatever we manage to see of London beyond Gabriel, it looks as colored as ever.
This is a book about have-beens and the almost-famous. Those who know the who's-who of the town; in this case, those who know London's rich and stars of Rock and roll. It is a tale of talent and imagination retold from the eyes of a child with a rich imagination and who feels more grown-up than his parents at moments in the book.
The book manages to convey an interesting picture of how life of those who survived the sixties continued in London. Of how dreams and hopes bloom and how they wither. How some plans never materialize, but others yet do. It is about the simple moments which make and break lives; like how accidentally falling off a stage can cut your gig and career short and like how getting introduced to someone as a young film-maker can get you camera to shoot your own movie.
In the end, it is an amusing and inspiring story of a boy with a full imagination (and talent) who gets to attend his parent's wedding.