Sunday, 29 January 2012

Book Review: Submarine by Joe Dunthorne


The film of Submarine came out a while ago and I wanted to see it because of the line “To us, and a wonderful evening of love-making” in the trailer. I never got to see the film due its limited release (and Paul’s reluctance to trek to the nearest cinema that was showing it) but I got the book for Christmas and I read most of it on the 27th (or boxing day’s boxing day, as I called it as a child).  At the moment I can only finish books if I read them really quickly, if I want (or can bear) to put them down I probably won’t pick them up again. Luckily Submarine was completely engaging and every time I had to stop reading I felt like I had wandered out of the room in the middle of a film.

Submarine is a coming-of-age novel about the fifteen-year-old Oliver Tate from Swansea. I'm having a coming-for-age novel/film phase and the moment and it's nice to have a good coming-of-age novel set in Britain. You don’t get quite the same effect from a coming-of-age novel or film from a country you didn’t grow up in because all the differences make it seem glamorous, and you lose the moments of recognition that make you smile or cringe (or both). I think the problem is cars. American teenagers drive around car far too much for me to feel sorry for them or for them to seem misunderstood. 

The quotes on the cover compare it to The Catcher in the Rye (how very original) and on Amazon it was compared to Adrian Mole -- one reviewer even suggesting that Sue Townsend sue Joe Dunthorne for ripping off Adrian Mole! At first I thought the comparison with Adrian Mole was mad, but looking back at the book now, I would say that it’s like a bizarre mixture of Adrian Mole and The Catcher in the Rye. Although Submarine isn’t in diary form, it does feature diary entries, and Oliver has many of the same preoccupations as Adrian Mole, in particular: losing his virginity and his parents’ relationship. However, Oliver is much luckier in love than Adrian Mole: his Pandora, Jordana, returns his affections and is happy to sleep with him. (hmm Jordana looks like Pandora). Less hopeless than Adrian Mole, Oliver Tate doesn’t manage to be as cool as Holden Caulfield, but it’s like he’s trying really hard.

What I enjoyed about this novel was how wonderfully pretentious Oliver was. I enjoy the pompous voice of a teenage boy in a novel – especially ones I know I would hate in real life. What Laura hated about this book was exactly what I enjoyed. I enjoyed seeing him being a self-involved shit while he thought he was better than everyone else. I enjoyed the ridiculous situations he got himself into – I always love the moment when you find the protagonist has got themselves into some mad, point-of-no-return situation. You have that moment when you feel like you are there with them and just going, “Shit, is this actually happening? What the hell!” with Oliver Tate this happened about 3 times.

If you love the kind of narrator you can see yourself in and want to kick and strangle all at the same time, while safe in the knowledge you probably weren't that bad, Submarine is for you. Alternatively, read Laura's review about how horrible Oliver is and go and read The Perks of Being a Wallflower instead (which I LOVE).


  1. Ah, I see! And by I see, I mean 'oh these are your thoughts on the book!' I would say that I did find it quite difficult to put down, actually, but I was just so uncomfortable seeing things from the perspective of a kind of sociopath (HE KILLED HIS GIRLFRIEND'S DOG AND HE WASN'T AT ALL SORRY!)

    Still better than The Catcher in the Rye though.

  2. He *tried* to kill his girlfriend's dog but it was hit by a car. ACTUALLY.