The Other Brother by Lauren Baratz Logsted

Review published on August 11, 2018.

Sex and drugs and rock and roll – is a great track by the late Ian Dury. Such a world is the backdrop to this novel from the American author who is apparently a huge fan of Mick Jagger.

Mona is the narrator and we meet her and her husband Jack and two sons, William and Harry (yes, the cliched links to Princess Diana hang heavy over the plot), at an Easter lunch in London with Jack’s parents, Edith and Burt. Jack’s brother Denny (or Dennis as he is known at home and when in trouble) has turned up in a limo after 20 years away becoming a super wealthy and famous rock singer in a band alongside Lenny Trey and 8. “I thought he was going to be a maths teacher….” complains his mother as Denny goes off to use his ‘new’ mobile phone (it’s the mid 90s) and leaves everyone waiting for him to reappear – a factor that has occurred for many years.

Mona and Jack have been married for 12 years and run a successful travel agency. Mona has booked them a beach house in coastal Connecticut and rashly invites Denny, even though Jack seems to loathe his brother and his lifestyle doesn’t seem to leave much space for cosy family beach holidays.

The Springer family are supposed to be British but somehow the author’s ability to make us believe that is never easy. Dialogue and setting in Britain remains with an American slant and the plot only really settles when they arrive in Connecticut.

Suddenly, Denny ‘rocks up’ with his limo (and driver) and his own two bodyguards – perhaps the funniest characters in the novel. But how will the family dynamics settle when they are thrown together and lifestyles collide?

It’s not a bad book and the writing is passable. But the cliched placing of things and language does jar (maybe not with an American readership I guess). The characters are not all they seem and Denny delights in showing us his ‘softer’ side away from the glitz and glamour of the music world. There is a twist in the tale but if young readers are looking for a scorching sex-fuelled rock expose they need to turn the next page (and I mean a book leaf not Jimmy…….). Yes, the puns come thick and fast when the rock star is Denny Springer (Bruce Springstein will have a melt down if he reads this!). It’s a weird read – not awful but not great – maybe like a lot of those tracks on rock albums! Book groups might not think it hits the right note though…..

Philipa Coughlan 3/2

The Other Brother by Lauren Baratz Logsted
Diversion Publishing 9781635760422 pbk Aug 2018

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