Home by Matt Dunn

A review of the humorous literary fiction novel Home by Matt Dunn.

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Ever so slightly departing from the ‘boy-meets-girl’ formula of his earlier romantic comedy novels, Home by Matt Dunn (a funny yet bittersweet tale of a Londoner moving back into his childhood home with his ageing parents) sees the author tackle some weightier and more ambitious themes, such as facing up to mortality and the mistakes of one’s past.

After receiving word that his father is terminally ill with cancer, Josh Peters moves back home to the seaside town of Derton to help his mother. In so doing, Josh dredges up memories of why he left in the first place: the failure of his past romantic relationships and the resentments surrounding his defiance of the expectation that he should inherit the family business.

With Dunn’s typically whip-smart dialogue, the author’s portrayal of Josh’s family is heart-warming, down-to-earth, and full of poignancy. The life lessons Josh faces up to along the way may be slightly predictable, as you might expect, but Dunn’s writing knows how to compensate for this by balancing humour with pathos to great effect.

Straddling that line between ‘chick lit’ and ‘lad lit,’ Matt Dunn has a reputation for being one of Britain’s funniest romantic comedy novelists. Having grown up in Thanet, in fact, it’s probably no coincidence that Dunn’s descriptions of the fictional seaside town of Derton certainly bear many similarities to Margate itself.

There appears to be references to the art-led regeneration of the town, akin to the impact of the Turner Contemporary, as well as a nod to The Cupcake Cafe and the Old Town. Like his central character in the story, Dunn left home to pursue a career in London, so it’s quite possible this novel may be the author’s own meditation on how Margate has changed and perhaps how he feels about his hometown in retrospect.

However, as with most Matt Dunn novels, it doesn’t take long before a love interest appears. For Josh, an old flame working in the cake shop. It’s from this point the novel partly reverts back to Dunn’s winning ‘rom-com’ formula; it’s fairly easy to spot the ending from a mile off. However, Dunn’s dialogue keeps the comedy flowing frequently enough to make Home a satisfying read.

As you’d probably expect from a novelist of his renown, Home is an extremely well-crafted story, highly accessible, easy-to-read and tailored for those who may well appreciate romantic comedies. The reconciliation subplot between Josh and his dying father, however, certainly helps to make it heart-warming enough to appeal to a wider audience. I found myself drawn to the novel because of the apparent Margate connection, but if you’re on the lookout for a light read with some thematic depth there’s no reason why you wouldn’t enjoy Home, as I did.

Humorous fiction writer, poet and novelist. Fond of satire. Interested in comic novels, black comedy and tales of satirical derring-do.

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