The Best of Times

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 May, 2010, 12:00am

The Best of Times
by Penny Vincenzi
Headline, HK$104

Readers familiar with their Charles Dickens will instantly recognise the title of Penny Vincenzi's latest book - 'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' from A Tale of Two Cities. Dickens fans may also feel the master in the sheer heft of Vincenzi's 900-page homage. It is the best of times, it is the longest of tomes. Luckily, the plot involving lives wrecked and rescued rarely lags. It is Friday, August 22, mid-afternoon, and a lorry on its way to London crashes on an otherwise unremarkable motorway. The incident unites a wide array of characters: a cheating gynaecologist returning home with his mistress; a groom on the way to his wedding along with his best man; a hitchhiking actress and the driver who gave her a lift; the doctor who has to rescue what she can from the disaster. It is to Vincenzi's credit that she employs such a grim set piece to bring her dramatis personae together. Whether all the ensuing criss-crossings are entirely credible is less certain - the enormous number of personae occasionally have rather too much dramatis for their own good. Still, it is diverting and fun - exactly why Vincenzi is more entertaining than real life.



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