Alice O’Keeffe, Books Editor at The Bookseller, said: “Our shortlists this year took the judges from Georgian London to the Second World War to contemporary New York. There are books from exciting fresh voices at the very start of their career, contrasted with books from with well-established brand authors at the top of their game. These are the books that sum up 2018 but which, we think, will be read for years to come.”
In her debut novel actress and highly accomplished screenwriter, Ruth Jones, cleverly crafts a vivid cast of characters that spring to life on the page. I was instantly hooked and stayed up all night to finish it.
So it’s disappointing to open her debut novel and find that voice subdued to the point of absence. Can this flavourless work really have come from the same writer who gave us the outrageously quirky Nessa? “It’s a different way of writing,” Jones said of her novel last year, “because you go inside people’s heads.” And indeed, she seems to have treated the book as an expeditionary assignment: go inside heads, have a good snoop around, and report back... Jones may have a good novel in her, but even her spark can’t set this soggy material alight.
This is the first novel from Ruth Jones, co-writer and star of Gavin & Stacey. Those who enjoyed the gentle social satire and wit of that series might want to think twice about picking up Never Greener. This bonkbuster lacks Gavin & Stacey’s charm and credibility and the writing is in places clunking and clichéd, as the title suggests.
Ruth Jones conveys human foibles and vulnerabilities with insight, compassion and a lack of judgment... Thought-provoking, compelling and ultimately redemptive, Never Greener is a captivating modern morality tale.
Never Greener provides no laughs, so again if it’s Nessa from Gavin and Stacey you’re after, you’ll be disappointed. These are sad and messy lives and what redemption there is hard earned both by the reader and the characters. But those characters are well rounded and believable, their yearning and heartache is palpable, and their flaws are stark.