SEB Review: “Lovely Assistant”


Back at the tail end of March I was contacted by Geoph Essex about a novel he had written that he wanted me to read. It was titled Lovely Assistant with a subtitle of Magic, Mystery, Mayhem, and the lighter side of Death. I’m only just getting around to writing a review now because 1) it’s pretty damned big at 489 pages and 2) I tend to read in fits and starts.

So here’s the short version: I love it and I think you should all go buy it and read it and enjoy it.

The longer review is harder to do because it’s the sort of story that’s best gone into without knowing a lot about it. It doesn’t help that trying to describe it is like trying to describe what yellow tastes like or what green sounds like. Here’s the general description of the book from Amazon’s listing for it:

Jenny Ng missed her last appointment, was hit by a car, and was hired by a magician on the same day. And those aren’t even remotely the strangest things that happened to her this summer. Jenny’s a typical New Yorker, too jaded too early, struggling to get by in the big city. Of course, the typical New Yorker rarely has to deal with very large and sardonic horses, magic swords, severed limbs, and mirror images that refuse to cooperate with all that reflecting business. But Jenny learns to cope. With the help of a clever conjurer, a few feckless friends, and enough Grim Reapers to fill out a football league, it’s up to Jenny to learn the finer points of Life and Death…and save the world while she’s at it.

It sounds really weird, which it is, but it’s also an enjoyably fun tale told with an eye for the colorful metaphor. Here’s part of the opening paragraph from Chapter 20 which contains no spoilers whatsoever, but gives you a good idea of the style of storytelling you’ll find within:

Arguments over which day any given deity may have taken a breather after a week of creative entrepreneurialism may orbit close to the center of the most divisive issues to ever plague humankind and pad the salaries of theologians, but the fact remains that Sunday is a definitive day of rest for the city of New York as whole, if not for individual New Yorkers themselves. By fiat or trend, businesses shorten their hours, subways trim their schedules, restaurants close earlier, and a colorless malaise envelopes the city, slowing things down and putting the City that Never Sleeps into the moral food coma that inevitably follows the gluttonous feast of Saturday’s nightlife. The air itself seems paler, thinner–ponderous and meaningless at the same time, like a snail trying to decide what to wear to the office Christmas party before her husband finally makes his way from the bedroom to the bathroom sixteen hours later to remind her that she neither wears clothes nor works in an office, let alone celebrates the birth of a hairless hominid who lived in a desert two thousand years earlier.

The prose reminds one of Douglas Adam’s writing, but it never comes across as an attempt at imitation of such. If the above sounds interesting to you at all then go buy this book. I’m not much of a literary expert, but I know what I like. It is often funny, frequently poignant, and damned enjoyable. The highest praise I can give it is that I was bummed when I finally reached the last period and realized there was no more to read. It’s a goddamned good book and I enjoyed it immensely. If you’re anything like me then you will too.

2 comments

  1. Bought it. Love it. I’m only half way through it, but it’s already one of my favorite books ever.

    I’d be happy to hear any other book recommendations you have.

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