Serious Sweet by A.L. Kennedy REVIEW

Serious SweetSerious Sweet by A.L. Kennedy
Published by Jonathan Cape
Published 19 May 2016
519 pages
Library book

Author website

Buy the book: UK

Buy the book: USA

NB: I’ve decided to read all of the books long-listed for the Man Booker this year. Other book blogs do this so it seems like a good idea.


A good man in a bad world, Jon Sigurdsson is 59 and divorced: a senior civil servant in Westminster who hates many of his colleagues and loathes his work for a government engaged in unmentionable acts. A man of conscience.

Meg Williams is ‘a bankrupt accountant — two words you don’t want in the same sentence, or anywhere near your CV’. She’s 45 and shakily sober, living on Telegraph Hill, where she can see London unfurl below her. Somewhere out there is safety.

Somewhere out there is Jon, pinballing around the city with a mobile phone and a letter-writing habit he can’t break. He’s a man on the brink, leaking government secrets and affection as he runs for his life.

Set in 2014, this is a novel of our times. Poignant, deeply funny, and beautifully written, Serious Sweet is about two decent, damaged people trying to make moral choices in an immoral world: ready to sacrifice what’s left of themselves for honesty, and for a chance at tenderness. As Jon and Meg navigate the sweet and serious heart of London — passing through 24 hours that will change them both for ever — they tell a very unusual, unbearably moving love story.


A family sits on a Tube train. They are all in a row and taking the Piccadilly Line. They have significant amounts of luggage. They seem tired and a little dishevelled, are clearly arriving from somewhere far away; a grandfather, a father, a mother and a daughter of about twelve months. The adults talk quietly in Arabic. The grandmother wears a headscarf, the wife does not.


I really enjoyed Serious Sweet. I’m a sucker for a good love story. A love story between two damaged people is guaranteed to tug my heart-strings. Kennedy uses a stream of consciousness style in Serious Sweet. I’m not a huge fan of this narrative style. However, this style isn’t as dense and heavy handed in Serious Sweet as I’ve seen in other novels and works well overall. I really like Meg and Jon. They are messed up people, damaged by the mistakes they’ve made trying to get their lives in order. I rooted for them from the first page. I found them almost painfully real. Serious Sweet contains scenes separate from the main story of various people in London who are also damaged. I really like these scenes and how they reflected the themes in Serious Sweet. I’d highly recommend this book.




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