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Making Love: A conspiracy of the heart

Marius Brill

Doubleday/Transworld Publishers

UK Hardcover First

ISBN: 0-385-60523-4

Publication Date: May, 2003

464 Pages; £12.99

Date Reviewed: August 13, 2003

Reviewed by: Terry D'Auray © 2003



General Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery, Science Fiction

Radio drama writer, prize-winning playwright and film writer Marius Brill is generating a buzz in Britain with his sexy, comedic first novel, 'Making Love A Conspiracy of the Heart'. It is an inventive, often hilarious parody of spy-thrillers, conspiracy theories and old-fashioned heart fluttering romantic novels.

'Making Love' is a book about a library book that falls in love with its reader - as told by the book itself. No ordinary book, this one is so filled with dangerous truths about love and sex that the British M15 had it destroyed. The sole remaining copy of the book is filed ignobly midst the romances in seedy Shepherds Bush Library, London. Miranda steals the book from the library by hiding it in her bra - no wonder the book fell instantly in love. A shop girl who sells sanitary napkins by day, Miranda escapes boredom and loneliness by reading romances by night. Alarmed that this heretical book still exists, M15 reopens the "Love Nuts" operation and calls in superstud agent Burnt Umber/Ferdinand. Umber's job - to "break or stop" Miranda's heart and recover the book. Thus begins a wildly improbable, sexy, silly and highly enjoyable romp.

The cast of characters is small, but each one is introduced in full regalia, their foibles and foolishness nailed with precision and riotous humor. Tony Fromnextdoor, secret computer hacker and secretly in love with Miranda; Barry in Dispatch, "over jerked and underlaid"; Mercy Bradley, Miranda's "sex on a stick" co-worker and best friend. There's Matthew Flirt, who risks life and limb (literally, and often) to aid Miranda and Mercy; Boss Scrufstayn, who enjoys his "Thursday Night Surprise" S&M adventures; bookish and fey Peesnide (Trotsky), book thief turned agent. And the romantic hero, Agent Burnt Umber, aka Ferdinand, tall, dark and handsome, whose character is "borrowed and overdue". These characters audaciously strut their stuff in scene after improbable scene. Scenes that would be oafish or overly broad on film, simply sight gag funny, are more substantive and far funnier when told in Brill's prose. Pictures sometimes aren't worth a thousand words, particularly if they're Brill's words.

The most arresting character in this book, the star of the show, is "the book" himself (he's clearly, lustily, masculine), a true romantic, yearning for love rather than a "quick fondle in these sheets". While telling Miranda's tale, he often wanders a field, speculating on this and that, describing the world from a book's viewpoint. "A book can go anywhere...the metaphysical equivalent of an all-zone travel card." "One of the perks of being a book" is that "you always know the ending". Aware that he's lost Miranda's love to Ferdinand, he frequently steps aside and attempts to woo a new lover...the current reader. Beware. He's not easily denied.

Pennyfeather is the book's author and his heretical text is interspersed with the story of Miranda. Set in a clunky typeface that is both hard to read and intimidating, Pennyfeather's metaphysical speculations and theories are ponderous, but witty and, often, wonderful.

In Brill's world, everything is funny - politics, philosophy, social mores, reality, fantasy, animals, and particularly people. He writes a full gamut of humorous styles - cynical, silly, witty, clever, absurd, situational, scatological. Mixing simple puns with sophisticated word play, he's chatty and loquacious, taking the world and turning it 180-degrees off kilter. Part Monty Python, part Jaspar Fforde, part Woody Allen, with a wit all his own, if you love words, you'll love what Brill does with them.

Not to be overlooked midst all the humor is the story itself, a study in contrasts. Miranda's romantic love story versus Pennyfeather's "love is the by-product of biological urges" treatise. Suave Ferdinand versus crude Barry, effete Peersnide versus manly Matthew, self-deprecating eager-for-love Miranda versus self-aggrandizing man-hater Mercy. "Making Love' is ultimately the contrast between a fairy tale and a love story, between love and lust, romance and sex, farce and fantasy.

If I find a fault with this book, it's simply that it's too long. Although it moves from gently paced love story to mad action-packed thriller with "verbs a go-go", I grew accustomed to the language, inured to the wit, and ultimately, eager for an end. There is too much of a good thing. But I laughed out loud, and happily surrendered to the farce and fantasy. I "had text" and fell in love with 'Making Love'. I suspect you will too.