Hello, people of the internet!
In October 2016, I was introduced to the books of Julian Clary and, not too long after, read Devil in Disguise. You can read my full review here. I said that I was more than happy to read more of his books and my request was fulfilled when I came across this Briefs Encountered.
Was it worth the read?
Title: Briefs Encountered
Author: Julian Clary
Publication date: 14th March 2013
Publisher: Ebury Press
Whoever said the afterlife would be easy…?
The new inhabitants of an old house in deepest darkest Kent are about to discover the previous owner – a certain Noël Coward – never quite left the building…
A wickedly dark ghost story about love, scandals and things that go bump in the night.
I shall start off this review by saying that the character Noël Coward was a real person. In fact, according to Julian Clary himself, the ghost of Noël haunted his house, thus the inspiration of Briefs Encountered was born. I think this is an interesting thing to do. However, as I am not familiar with Noël Coward or his work, I can’t say for sure if Julian Clary did portray him convincingly. Nonetheless, I did like Noël as a character.
Whilst on the subject of characters, I thought they were well-written and diverse. Quite a colourful bunch in fact. The relationships between each character are complex and realistic, especially when it comes to love and betrayal. I honestly think the new inhabitants of the old house, Richard and Fran, make a wonderful couple and suit each other well. I will not spoil the ending, but expect a lot of emotions.
This was definitely an easy read. Despite there being two narratives and two time periods, I could understand what was happening to whom and why. The only problem I have with this is that when the story is told through Noël’s perspective, it doesn’t feel like it was being told in 1920s, other than how homosexuality was illegal back then and a few other things such as the use of servants. It didn’t distract me from the story, but I thought it would have made more of an impact if I felt I was in the 1920s and 30s with Noël and his partner, Jack.
I was not disappointed with the humour however! Again, I didn’t laugh out loud, but it is very witty. One can accept quite a few sexual innuendos and puns (heck, the title is a pun), but there were none I felt were too crude or disrupted the pacing of the story – I like puns anyway. Come to think of it, how Julian Clary writes is quite clever. It is difficult to combine both comedy and tragedy in a way that is balanced, in that it is a comedy drama and both elements work together. Whenever I think back to when I read Devil in Disguise, I remember it being both equally funny and tragic. It works perfectly in Briefs Encountered too. For example, when I read Noël’s narrative, he is usually witty and fun to read. However when he is betrayed and heartbroken, I feel emotional for him. I don’t know if anyone would see this in the same way as I do, but that is how I perceive the use of comedy and tragedy in Briefs Encountered.
Furthermore, this kind of complexity works with all characters involved in this book. It adds depth to their personalities. Overall, I like to think Julian Clary knows how to combine both comedy and tragedy to create well-written characters and tension.
The book certainly delivered on the scandals like the blurb promised – seriously I can’t count how many times I actually exclaimed in shock, “Oh my God! Well I have to know what happens now!” On the other hand, if you expect a lot of spooks or ghosts, I would honestly say you shouldn’t. Sure, they are ghosts and things that go bump in the night, even a tragic backstory to the house as well, but both Noël and Richard’s narratives don’t tend to heavily focus on these elements. They do mention them now and again, and sometimes discuss them in more depth, but the main focus of the story is what happens to Noël, Richard and their respective partners, families and so on. I would say this isn’t a ghost story, but I enjoyed the story regardless. Besides, it is no doubt a dark story. Very dark indeed!
I will give this book 4 stars out of 5. It may not deliver many scares, but it certainly delivers humour and scandal! With its unpredictable plot, shocking twists and colourful characters, Briefs Encountered is an enjoyable read.
Thank you for reading!