Friday, 15 May 2009


I wanted to further politely gush about The Conclave, now that our reissue has been released.  This wonderful book weaves together the life, loves, thoughts and feelings of its main character - Martin Knight - with a brilliant evocation and description of the professional, social and cultural worlds of the 1980's.

The best way to recommend the book is, I think, to let it speak for itself, so here are a few passages.

Thus, at a time when Great Britain was beginning to be spoken of as two nations—one poor, the other extremely wealthy—Martin Knight could exist in a small world which enjoyed the benefits of credit. Every aspect of daily life, from travelling to shopping, appeared to be reinventing itself, as a process, for those people who did not have to consider the cost. A new class of Briton, neither upper nor lower in background, was busily extending the scope of his territory. And it was a curious world which this new class inhabited; there was a prevalent attitude, comprising of a myriad impressions, amongst its young members, that some comforting spree was getting under way. Whilst, occasionally, the politics of that era were vehemently criticised by those who were enjoying the illusion of opulence that was being created, the illusion itself was so strong and so persuasive that its boundaries could not be perceived. For this particular class, participating in a self-assured, cosmetic renaissance, all things appeared possible. Their tastes and their ambition flattered, a generation of young consumers was taking up residence in an urban wonderland. Later, Martin would say that they were led like lambs to the slaughter.

That autumn, which was filled with mist in the early evenings, could be regarded for Martin and Marilyn’s crowd as the beginnings of the giddy ascent to the zenith of disposable income. It was a time when the principal London railway termini could boast booths that sold nothing but smoked salmon and squat jars of Dijon mustard; and it was approaching a time, so the curators of apocrypha would later say, when a man’s ambition could be measured by the colour of his braces.

The affluence of the times appeared to dispel all notions of doubt. From his friends in the City, Martin was continually hearing stories of vast salaries offered over lunch, or of personal fortunes made with a single phone call. Whilst the facts behind these legends remained obscure, Martin considered his own affluence to be an extension of their mythology. In many ways he had merely drifted into success, whilst the basis of his situation was childlike in its simplicity: he spent far more than he earned, but his character was complicit with a culture which suggested that this was perfectly normal.


No comments: