Book review: The Split by Laura Kay

Sarah Fairbairn reviews a queer rom-com by a Walthamstow author

The Split (credit: Quercus Publishing)
The Split (credit: Quercus Publishing)

One of the things I admire most about Laura Kay’s charming, funny and thoroughly enjoyable depiction of the emotional turmoil caused by an unexpected break up is the author’s clear belief that it’s possible to train for a half marathon while eating an uninterrupted diet of crisps, chips, cakes, pizzas, wine, beer and Indian takeaways. This book absolutely bounces along as we follow the protagonist from a house boat in east London back to her dad’s house in Sheffield and up and down the city’s notorious hills in a misguided attempt to get one over on the woman who broke her heart.

It’s hard to believe that this is a debut novel. The dialogue is completely convincing, demonstrating a real understanding of how difficult it can be to say what you really mean. Usually I groan when books include snippets of emails and texts – they are so often transparent attempts to disguise exposition as action – but in this book every typed word feels painfully, achingly accurate. Who among us hasn’t spent hours composing the perfect ‘I’m having such a fun time I’m barely even thinking about you’ email, all the while insisting to friends and family that we are fine, just fine, totally fine and getting on with life?

Rom-coms very rarely make it on to my to-be-read pile so I’m delighted to have been given the chance to read this one. The story doesn’t try to dazzle with surprise twists and turns but instead relies on sharp wit and clear-sighted empathy for its characters. The relationships at the heart of the book are of all kinds – romance, friendship, family and animals – and there’s a true warmth in how these well-drawn characters are depicted. If you’ve ever felt yourself losing a grip on your emotional life, wondered how to move on to the next stage or marvelled at how the people that care about you manage to pull you through even the toughest times, you’ll find something you relate to in this book. There’s marathons, school discos, awkward conversations and a cat called Malcolm and in the paperback edition there’s a sneak preview of Laura Kay’s next book Tell Me Everything, due to be published in April this year. It’s definitely going to be on my reading list.

The Split was published by Quercus Books – find out more here.