An engaging and engrossing book but a bit overlong – could have done with some editing.

Tom Wolfe is a funny and sharp writer and, as he does in the more famous Bonfire of the Vanities, he sets out several strands of a story then brings them together as the book unfolds. The themes are also familiar from Bonfire – race; inequalities of wealth; sex and sexism; and politics, and its relationship with money.

The novel is set mainly in Atlanta and much fun is had with sardonic and ironic descriptions of Southern stereotypes.

But this is a very entertaining book, simply because the style carries you along and he brilliantly puts you in the mind of the character while at the same time showing you how wrong-headed they are. It is a kind of comedy of manners.

My criticism is that some of the big set piece episodes and dialogues go on a bit too long. There is obviously a fine balance to be struck between not scrimping on the description and detail that are so necessary to create the dramatic tension, and just dragging things out a bit too much.

But this is a good book for a holiday or a time when you can take it in big bite-sized chunks.

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