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A romp of a novel set across Europe

25th November 2020

The Flip Side by James Bailey – a romp of a novel set across Europe.

The Flip Side is very entertaining read, perhaps a little in the style of Nick Hornby. It is no great intellectual challenge, but it bowls along very nicely… Josh, the hero of the story, proposes to his long time girlfriend in the London Eye big wheel on New Year’s Eve. She turns him down. He also loses his job (he works for her father) and his flat (which her father owns).

Happy New Year! Things can’t get worse – so he decides to leave his future to chance. He will toss a coin for every decision over the next year – and see where life takes him. It takes him right across Europe. He is watching a friend run the London marathon when he encounters someone in the crowd outside the National Gallery – he believes she will be the love of his life. They go in (him delayed by security and having to toss the coin to decide which is the way to follow her) on a circuitious way to see Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. She says there are in fact five of the paintings in the world, and that she lives near one of them. She also says she works in a bookshop. They get separated in the crowd outside – without exchanging names or phone numbers. It will be a hopeless task for Josh to find her again (or for her to find him…). But Josh is determined, with the help of some friends, to give it a go.

They discover that the other four paintings are in Amsterdam, Munich, Philadelphia and Tokyo. Josh and his friends win a quiz show on TV and bank £1,000 between them. The others give their money to him to fund his search. He tosses the coin and sets off with a flight to Munich – just in time for Oktoberfest. He finds the painting in the gallery there, finds a couple of English language bookshops, but no sign of the girl. Next stop Amsterdam, and the Van Gogh Museum and bookshops there. But still no luck. He is about to head back to London (he can’t afford Philadelphia or Tokyo) when he hears that the Philadelphia painting is on loan to a Paris gallery. He is offered a ride there by a stranger and accepts it. He visits the Shakespeare and Company English bookshop and discovers she works there… but is not around when he visits. Will he find her, what will her reaction be, will they live happily ever after?

You can possibly guess the ending, but I won’t tell you. As I said, the book is a great lighthearted romp. What is especially good in TF terms is the selection of locations Joss visits in Europe. James did a lot of research for the book and chose some cracking places to set the story – both on and off the usual tourist tracks. Three of my favourites (all of which I have visited) are the Shakespeare and Company  bookshop and the amazing Cimetière du Père Lachaise  (where so many famous are buried) both in Paris, and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

You will enjoy The Flip Side.

Tony for the TripFiction team

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