Roommates Wanted: A Novel

( 4 )

Overview

1990. Please write and tell me why you should live here.

Toby Dobbs received a big Victorian house with too many bedrooms to count as a wedding present from his father, but his marriage is over within a month. Very alone, and very lonely, Toby posts an advertisement seeking the "Unexpectedly Alone" to become his roommates. Fifteen years later the wayward souls he takes in are still living with him, with no ...

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Overview

1990. Please write and tell me why you should live here.

Toby Dobbs received a big Victorian house with too many bedrooms to count as a wedding present from his father, but his marriage is over within a month. Very alone, and very lonely, Toby posts an advertisement seeking the "Unexpectedly Alone" to become his roommates. Fifteen years later the wayward souls he takes in are still living with him, with no intention of leaving.

2004. Please tell me how I can convince you to move out.

Toby Dobbs has met Leah Pilgrim from across the road, and they're falling in love. But before they can begin a new life together, Toby and Leah must help Toby's house of sweet slackers and lovelorn misfits grow up, solve their problems, and set themselves free. But can their new relationship survive the test?

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Jewell's boisterous sixth novel is a compulsively readable jaunt through the lives of a handful of suburban London misfits. Leah, a shopgirl whose live-in boyfriend flees when she mentions marriage, lives across the street from Toby, a struggling poet who lets out rooms in his bedraggled Victorian house to ragtag tenants who pay rent when they remember and clutter up his otherwise solitary life. There's a cabaret singer who depends on sugar daddies to keep afloat; a mailroom clerk who shares a room with his mother; and a stylish recluse. And then there's longtime tenant Gus, whom Leah finds dead on the front walk one day. When Toby discovers that Gus has willed him a sickly cat and a pile of pounds with the provision that Toby use the money to make his life "everything it could be," it provides the impetus for a shakeup at Toby's that sends the cast in different directions as they each find ways to grow up. Jewell (Vince and Joy) has a sure hand with the lightly humorous and romantic, and she delivers the goods: an eccentric cast, lively banter and plenty of warmhearted cheer. (Mar.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
School Library Journal

Jewell (Vince and Joy) weaves together the oddball lives of London misfits in this well-crafted and entertaining seventh novel, published in Britain as 31 Dream Street. An eccentric poet, Toby has established a rooming house for anyone needing refuge from the real world. There's rocker Ruby, on her own since age 16; mysterious actress Joanne, who won't speak to anyone in the house; earnest mailroom clerk Con and his freewheeling mum, Melinda; and recluse Gus, who's been there since before Toby inherited the sprawling house. When Gus dies, he leaves Toby money and instructions that Toby must use it to improve his life and not die alone as he did. With the help of the cute, friendly young woman across the street, Toby not only takes on a massive remodeling of the house, but decides to help his flatmates overhaul their lives. The characters are very appealing in their own quirky ways, and Jewell does a marvelous job tying their stories together. A little less like chick lit than some of her previous novels, this would also appeal to male readers who enjoy Nick Hornby. For most fiction collections.
—Rebecca Vnuk

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Reviews
Romance and real estate combine in the latest from British novelist Jewell (Vince and Joy, 2006, etc.). On one side of a North London suburban street lives 35-year-old Leah, who is having boyfriend trouble. On the other side of the street, in an ornate but neglected Victorian curiosity, lives socially uncertain poet Toby, whose father gave him the house as his legacy 15 years ago, and who has filled it with lame duck and oddball tenants. As the book opens, Leah finally meets Toby-whom she's observed for ages-while standing over the corpse of his oldest tenant, found dead outside. When Toby learns the tenant has left him a lot of money, he realizes he is now free to sell and move to Cornwall. But first he must evict his collection of waifs-and-strays tenants and remodel his house, and for that he seeks neighbor Leah's help. Hand-in-hand with the domestic renovation, Toby himself is transformed from grungy dweeb into insightful partner who actively helps sort out the lives of those renting his rooms: young Con, in love with Daisy from the office; mysterious Joanne, who must move beyond her tragic past; and slutty, unscrupulous musician Ruby, who finally gets with the program. Leah and Toby eventually reach a fairy-tale conclusion too, in a junk shop overlooking the sea. A skillfully written, cheerful book.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061137471
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/11/2008
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 456,882
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 1.08 (d)

Meet the Author

Lisa Jewell is the author of six novels, including Ralph's Party and Vince and Joy. Born and raised in north London, she lives there still with her husband and children.

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Read an Excerpt


Roommates Wanted
A Novel

By Lisa Jewell HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
Copyright © 2008
Lisa Jewell
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780061137471

Chapter One

Fifteen Years Earlier

1 August 1990

Toby,

Jemma and I are leaving for Cape Town tomorrow morning. I'm sorry we'll miss your wedding next week, but I'm sure you understand.

I am enclosing a set of keys. I have bought you and Karen a house as a wedding gift. Peter got it at auction. I haven't seen it, but Peter assures me it was a good buy. In need of some TLC, but structurally sound. Which is just as well, as this house also represents your inheritance. I thought it best you have something now as I will be abroad for the foreseeable future and, once Jemma and I start our new family, things will get complicated in terms of who gets what. Much simpler this way. Property is the thing, Toby. You're on the ladder now. I can see big things happening with the London property market. Make the most of it.

Peter says there's one snag. A sitting tenant. I'm sure he'll be able to advise you on how to get him out. I've enclosed Peter's card, if you need him.

I wish you and Karen all the best for Saturday. Jemma and I will raise a glass of champagne to you both as the sun sets over Camps Bay.

Nothing much else to say except good luck, I suppose.

Best,

Reggie/Dad

In August 1990, Reggie Dobbs came to the bitter conclusion that raising his only son had been a complete waste of his time, his money and his sperm. He still recoiled at the memory of what bearingthis gigantic heffalump of a boy had done to his first wife's young, firm body and had never forgiven him for it. The enormous infant had continued to grow at a disgusting rate, six foot three at thirteen and thin as a streak of piss, useless at sports, covered in spots, not a pretty sight. Toby had inherited his model mother's height, but sadly not her looks. It was unnerving, craning your neck to look up into the ineffectual gaze of your gigantic son, looming over you like an overgrown bird of prey.

They'd sent him away to school at five years old and tried to make more babies, but none had come. And then Angela had died and Reggie had been stuck with this one son, a giant, a waste of space who claimed to be a 'poet'. Reggie said, 'Poet?! You look more like a teapot in that ridiculous hat!' But somehow, by some incredible stroke of luck, this strange boy of his had found himself a woman—a woman who was prepared to marry him. Not a beautiful girl, but then Toby should be grateful for what he could get.

He wanted to give them something, as he wasn't going to be a part of their lives, so he'd sat down with his accountant and concluded that his son was worth £75,000; £3,000 for every year of his life. He gave this money to his property broker and told him to get the best he could for it at auction.

And then he and his third wife slipped into the first-class cabin of a 747 and flew to Cape Town, where another property broker was waiting for them with the keys to a penthouse apartment overlooking the Atlantic. Reggie didn't leave Toby a forwarding address or a telephone number. He just disappeared.

Reggie wondered about Toby from time to time, especially after the kids arrived. He wondered if Toby and Karen had had children, if he was a grandfather yet; he wondered if Toby was happy, if he'd managed to make a living out of writing his wretched poetry or if he'd grown up and taken responsibility for himself.

He doubted it very much. But mostly he didn't think about Toby at all. Mostly Reggie just drank vodka, ate rich food, avoided his family and wondered when he was going to die.



Continues...


Excerpted from Roommates Wanted by Lisa Jewell Copyright © 2008 by Lisa Jewell. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 11, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Loved it

    When Toby Dobbs' wife leaves him shortly after their wedding, he finds himself alone in a large Victorian home. To stave off the emptiness, and provide an income, he decides to rent out rooms. Preference will be given to artists and performers, to qualify you must send him a letter explaining why he should choose you.
    For 15 years he has been content with living in his house with his various tenants, never getting to know them, not really accomplishing anything. Just watching the time go by. After receiving a letter from his absent father, receiving an unexpected inheritance, and meeting Leah Pilgrim, the girl next door, Toby finally has the shove he needs to get his life back on track. Before he can move on, he must fix up his home to place it on the market and help his house mates find their place in the world. Can Leah and Toby make it through the ups and downs of helping his misfit tenants grow up and find themselves?
    What a great book! Lisa Jewell has written a brilliant tale about a guy who is finding out that he has just let life pass him by, and wants to change that, though sometimes he needs a little nudge in the right direction. I don't read a lot of general fiction, sticking mainly to romance, but something kept pulling at me to try this book. My instincts didn't fail me, this is a light read full of humor and realization. Their were many sweet moments as we got to know Leah, Toby and his tenants. I was concerned that Toby would not be able to get the tenants to move on with their lives, allowing him to move on also, but was please with the resolutions. I will be looking for more of Lisa Jewell's books to enjoy in the future.

    NightOlwReviews.com

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  • Posted October 16, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Another Great Jewell Book!

    To sum up in one word what I thought of Roommates Wanted, by Lisa Jewell- WOW! Lisa Jewell is the author of six novels, five of them bestsellers, and grew up in north London , where she still resides with her husband and two daughters.<BR/><BR/>Toby Dobbs, after receiving an old Victorian from his father, and being left by his wife three weeks later, decides to place an ad for roommates. Fifteen years later, although never alone, he finds himself with a full house and still lonely. After a chance meeting with the woman across the street, Leah Pilgrim, Toby finds himself wanting to be more than a brooding poet; he wants to live. Together, they work on fixing the misfit slackers problems and aid them in growing up, so he, too, can do the same.<BR/><BR/>However, this daunting task proves to be no easy feat. Con, still just a boy himself, finds he is falling in love with a co-worker who is vastly ill, and making it difficult to fulfill his plans to save enough money for pilot school. Melinda, Con¿s mother, is bound and determined to remain with her son at all costs, in an attempt to make up for deserting him as a child. Ruby, who was never forced in to the workforce, continues to live off of her many men while dreaming of becoming a singer/songwriter. And Joanne, who changes in to a different person everyday, is as secretive as she is elusive.<BR/><BR/>Roommates Wanted is a true icon in this genre! It stands apart from everything else. It will take you on a ride filled with love, grief, and humor like nothing you¿ve read. Lisa Jewell¿s clever and witty dialog will, at times, literally, having you laughing out loud. Don¿t read this in a library. The characters are charming and believable, even when you want to slap them senseless. You almost forget they¿re not real. The plot flowed exceedingly well and, even with all the characters, it was not hard to follow in any form. The back stories, plot, characters, dialog; it all wraps itself together in a package you won¿t soon forget. And, in a way, makes a very sound argument between the fantasy of youth, and the practicality of adulthood. It is a book mixed with real life and dreams that mix so smoothly together you can¿t put it down. This should, most definitely, be made into a movie. Right on, Lisa Jewell! Or, rather, write on!<BR/><BR/> <BR/><BR/>Kelly Moran,<BR/><BR/>Author and Reviewer

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 17, 2008

    She does it again!

    To sum up in one word what I thought of Roommates Wanted, by Lisa Jewell- WOW! Lisa Jewell is the author of six novels, five of them bestsellers, and grew up in north London, where she still resides with her husband and two daughters. Toby Dobbs, after receiving an old Victorian from his father, and being left by his wife three weeks later, decides to place an ad for roommates. Fifteen years later, although never alone, he finds himself with a full house and still lonely. After a chance meeting with the woman across the street, Leah Pilgrim, Toby finds himself wanting to be more than a brooding poet he wants to live. Together, they work on fixing the misfit slackers problems and aid them in growing up, so he, too, can do the same. However, this daunting task proves to be no easy feat. Con, still just a boy himself, finds he is falling in love with a co-worker who is vastly ill, and making it difficult to fulfill his plans to save enough money for pilot school. Melinda, Con¿s mother, is bound and determined to remain with her son at all costs, in an attempt to make up for deserting him as a child. Ruby, who was never forced in to the workforce, continues to live off of her many men while dreaming of becoming a singer/songwriter. And Joanne, who changes in to a different person everyday, is as secretive as she is elusive. Roommates Wanted is a true icon in this genre! It stands apart from everything else. It will take you on a ride filled with love, grief, and humor like nothing you¿ve read. Lisa Jewell¿s clever and witty dialog will, at times, literally, having you laughing out loud. Don¿t read this in a library. The characters are charming and believable, even when you want to slap them senseless. You almost forget they¿re not real. The plot flowed exceedingly well and, even with all the characters, it was not hard to follow in any form. The back stories, plot, characters, dialog it all wraps itself together in a package you won¿t soon forget. And, in a way, makes a very sound argument between the fantasy of youth, and the practicality of adulthood. It is a book mixed with real life and dreams that mix so smoothly together you can¿t put it down. This should, most definitely, be made into a movie. Right on, Lisa Jewell! Or, rather, write on! Kelly Moran, Author and Reviewer

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    This is an amusing yet deeply touching contemporary tale

    In London, thirty-five year old shop girl Leah has lived across the street from Toby for years although she has seen him about the neighborhood they have never met. Her long time boyfriend abandons her when she mentions marriage. Toby inherited his dilapidated Victorian mansion from his dad fifteen years ago he rents rooms to loners although he finds them a pain in the butt. P Leah is walking outside when she finds long time Toby tenant Gus lying dead outside the mansion. Gus¿ corpse serves as a matchmaker of sorts as Toby and Leah finally meet. Gus bequests to Toby his ailing cat and a lot of money with the pleading message to clean up his life and make something of him self instead of drifting through life. Toby decides to renovate the Victorian and kick out his assortment of tenants though he does not ask them directly to leave he turns to Leah to assist him helping these sad losers renovate their lives. P This is an amusing yet deeply touching contemporary tale as Toby who gave up on life years ago as being too hard but now suddenly has a second chance. However to succeed he must rid himself of the fully developed eccentric renters. Although he rationalizes his caring nobility as selflessness, encouraged by lonely Leah, he tries to help the others get a life first in his efforts he gets a life. ROOMMATES WANTED is a terrific character study of dissolution becoming idealism by feeling good about helping others enables the lead protagonist to ¿start living¿ again. P Harriet Klausner

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