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14th October 2020

Are We Nearly There Yet? by Lucy Vine, novel set mainly in Los Angeles and Thailand.


Alice’s thirtieth birthday party is a complete disaster – her friends, now all too mature to indulge in the usual binge session, elect to go for dinner instead, where Alice is confronted with their happy relationships and is forced to reflect on her own miserable love life, consisting mainly of trying to resist sex with her appalling ex.  Inevitably, she ends up drunk and crying under the table and finally accidentally sexts her boss, which results in her losing her job. There being nothing left to stay for (Alice’s best friend, Eva, is happily pregnant and will need the room that Alice has been living in) she decides to set off on a round-the-world adventure using some inheritance that she was saving for a house deposit. She is intent on emulating her favourite travel blogger Constance Beaumont and sets up a travel blog on AWOL where she intends to record her progress towards “finding herself” through a month in LA followed by a month in Thailand.

Lucy Vine’s account of the lunacy that is LA is priceless.  Little is left unscathed. From the modern dating world to New Age religious cults and mindfulness (Alice decides to go instead for mindlessness, which she manages to great effect at Venice Beach) all are a rich source of comedy.  There is a scene where Alice attends an awards ceremony that creates one of the funniest/most excruciating moments in the book – be warned – if reading in public, you’re likely to snort with laughter. When she travels onwards to Thailand, Vine continues to cast her critical eye over Phuket and the drink, drugs and debauchery that Western tourists indulge in, whilst purporting to be in search of inner wisdom and spiritual enlightenment.  The account of the Ayahuasca retreat is just a joy and you’re left feeling that it serves us all right if we get ripped off.  I loved the characters too – even the crackpots and the potheads and the scammers.  Vine has the ability to get us to laugh at their foibles but still see the humanity beneath.

This is a very funny novel, not only because of its shrewd observations of life today but also because of the central character.  Believe it or not, but Alice Edwards makes Bridget Jones look cool and sophisticated.  It’s very much a novel of and for our times and a lot of the humour stems from the discrepancy between Alice’s on-line character and experiences as contrasted with the reality.  It cannot but help to make the reader ponder over our obsession with life lived through social media.  One of the most hilarious elements are the trolls that bedevil Alice’s posts and the moderator’s attempts to control them.

Of course, it’s not all laugh-a-minute for Alice is really trying to run away from some truths that she needs to face in terms of her relationships with friends and family and, as time goes on, she gradually realises what she needs to do.  Hence a gratifying ending.  There’s nothing really to beat a book that makes you laugh out loud but allows you to reflect a bit too.

Ellen for the TripFiction Team

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