Men and women meet at The Jacaranda in London for an evening of speed-dating, where they each have three minutes to talk to and assess each participant of the opposite sex.
The initial chapters introduce us to some of the characters who will be attending, take us through the event, and then we see the choices these people make afterwards about who they are interested in seeing again. Using the event of speed-dating provides an immediate intro into the characters and a neat way to bring them all together and show what then happens later.
There is no plot as such, the rest of the book follows the main characters over the subsequent weeks. The author gradually reveals more information and detail about the lives these people lead, and their relationships, both romantic/sexual and familial.
Cooper has attempted an ambitious style for this, her first novel, as she uses third person, mostly intimate, from multiple points of view. Each chapter can be told from the perspective of three or four people, sometimes up to six, with eight characters in total telling their story throughout the book.
It’s difficult to achieve successfully, but for the most part, it works well, although it can feel a bit busy at times. The six main characters, who go on to have dates, and sex, are credible and develop well throughout the book.
The author’s strength, as well as characterisation, lies in her use of dialogue, which is punchy and succinct, to move the story along. In some of the narrative sections, Cooper introduces information from the past by using the characters’ memories. Inevitably, these sections tend to be a mix of telling the reader what happened, and in longer passages, it occasionally feels like an information dump to bring us up to speed.
Overall though, it’s an enjoyable light read, nicely paced, with some good characters who are easy to empathise with. I liked the ending which completes the circle by bringing us back to the beginning in an unexpected way. It doesn’t provide a neat tidying up, but this isn’t a plot-based story. The book ends optimistically on a note of hope and a sense of direction for the future. And probably a sequel.
I give this four stars.