19 May 2023

Review: The Satsuma Complex by Bob Mortimer

The Satsuma Complex by Bob Mortimer book cover

* Copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster *

This was a real surprise. The Satsuma Complex arrived in my mailbox unsolicited, and despite attending the Melbourne Comedy Festival each year, and having a reasonable appreciation of the who's who of comedians, I hadn't come across Bob Mortimer's work before. I started by watching a few clips from Would I Lie to You? and he had me. This guy makes me laugh. Often. And full bellied. So I decided to see what he could do.

Gary Thorn is our thirty year old narrator in The Satsuma Complex by Bob Mortimer. Gary is an average, unremarkable legal assistant in London, low on friends but instantly likeable. When drinks at the pub with acquaintance from work Brendan come to a premature close, Gary starts chatting with a young woman at the bar. Despite getting along like a house on fire, she leaves without exchanging contact details.

From there, a mystery ensues when Brendan goes missing and Gary is the last person to see him alive. The Satsuma Complex has an easy and enjoyable reading rhythm that's all about the writing and particularly the dialogue.

Here's an observation from our main character that had me nodding along in recognition:
"Mainly because of the fringe. I associate geometric haircuts with the arts. You know - David Hockney, Phil Oakey, Jane Brurier - and the Doc Martens screamed the more crafty end of the arty spectrum." Page 21
Because I do too! I always assume a person with a geometric severe cut fringe is involved in the arts, literature or fashion industries. Why is that?

Mortimer has a talent for writing interesting characters, and Gary's neighbour Grace is an absolute hoot. In fact, I can't recall enjoying a neighbour in a novel as much as this since Maud's friend and neighbour Renata in The Hoarder by Jess Kidd in 2018.

Later learning Mortimer was once a solicitor helped me understand his clever intelligent writing and deepened my interest in his work, so much so that I'm considering listening to his memoir And Away, published in 2021.

Mortimer's imagination and creativity were a welcome surprise. Here's a paragraph narrated by Gary, who is talking about taking a bath before going out on a date:
"I made it into a forty-minute experience, shaving my face, ears and shoulders, cleaning between my toes, topping up with hot water every time the temperature faded, cleaning under my nails, reading the ingredients of my shampoo and toothpaste, squeezing the blackheads on my nose, cleaning the sealant between the bath and the wall, floating the cap from the shower gel on the surface and then sinking it by spitting a stream of bath water from my mouth, lying slowly down to gradually fill my eye sockets with water, polishing my kneecaps with shaving foam, shining the taps with my big toe, throwing the soap up in the air then dipping my head underwater to hear its re-entry into the swill and making spirals from my chest hair so that it resembled a Mediterranean garden. It was a good bath and a welcome break." Page 200-201
The duck jokes were a quack-up and the no-comment interview (page 100) made me read the entire scene to my husband so he could join in on the chuckles.

This five star rating is based purely on enjoyability. This book made me laugh out loud and I often found myself thinking about it during the day and looking forward to picking it up again each night.

I can highly recommend The Satsuma Complex by Bob Mortimer, and I'll even go so far as to say it has inspired an interest to continue my reading later in the year with And Away by Bob Mortimer and a memoir by David Mitchell, co-star of the show Would I Lie To You? entitled Back Story. I've never really been a fan of memoirs, but I'm already planning to listen to these two, based purely on their ability to make me laugh. Perhaps I need an injection of humour to get through the winter?

A new favourite, that's for sure!

My Rating:

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