No Logo meets The World According to Garp, as Saving the World and Being Happy charts Nathaniel Papulous' life from lovelorn schoolboy and computer nerd to head of the all-powerful International Hope-ist Movement. He wins, loses, and regains the love of the beautiful Rosemary, and succeeds in bringing the greedy multinational corporations to heel, thus "saving the world."Opening in the portentous style of Victorian biography, Saving the World and Being Happy delights in taking sideswipes at such issues as celebrity culture, Muzak and product placement while never losing sight of its main themes: the concentration of wealth in the hands of a corrupt few, the related increase in global poverty, and the (deliberately?) divided nature of the political left.This is a quirky and uplifting book, interweaving political satire, romance, music and art. If you don't feel like "uniting and fighting" you will at least view the world through new eyes. We're all Hope-ists now!
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is a highly entertaining read, which I can thoroughly recommend. There are two broad types of novels, those that seek solely to entertain and those that seek to both entertain and educate. The first type can provide immense pleasure, the second category frequently does not. It rather depends on the tone adopted, overtly political novels can have a distinct tendency to hector, or to adopt a condescending tone, - not in ¿Saving the world and being happy¿. Here there is a wealth of information interlaced between the lines of an excellent yarn. Perhaps the ending is a little too `happy¿ for my personal tastes. On the other hand this is the first piece of anti-globalisation literature that I have not had to put down after every chapter in order to take a week to recover from the depressive effects induced by the litany of greed and brutality. Therein I think lies the great strength of the book, the brutal reality of globalisation is set within an uplifting tale, one can acquire a great deal of knowledge without the usual accompaniment of depression. If you are not well acquainted with the world of globalisation then read this book, it is the pleasant acquisition of unpleasant knowledge. If you do know the facts, read the book as a pleasant change from John Pilger, Mark Curtis et al. You may not ¿save the world¿ in reading the book, but you will be happy that you did.
Although I know the author, I was initially very sceptical about this book and was worried about reviewing it as I am not known for my tact and diplomacy. Its title, ¿Saving the World and Being Happy¿, is ambitious for a first novel and, I thought, might well be setting the reader up for great disappointment. How wrong I was!
This is not, as I had feared, a half-baked and sloppily-thrown-together hodge-podge of middle-class Guardian-reader idealism, although it is certainly idealistic. The quaint and intensely narrated opening is nicely sarcastic, but this style cedes to more fluent prose as the novel develops. The main character, Nathaniel, has clearly been inspired by The Catcher in the Rye¿s Holden Caulfield, as well as by Don Quixote, and it is fascinating and diverting to watch his (at times, slapstick) rise from hopeless and lovesick schoolboy to someone who is effectively the most powerful man in the world. The author is a competent observer of human nature and the narrator¿s piquant comments on educational techniques and the like are both amusing and interesting.
The picture painted of privatised, over-commercialised and style- and celebrity-obsessed modern-day Britain (well, Britain in the late 1990s) is side-splittingly funny and, at the same time, very disturbing. The author does a more-than-competent job of describing the fate of women in Britain¿s sometimes barbaric and archaic penal system and effectively does a neat hatchet job on the ¿hang¿em and flog¿em¿ brigade. (Lefties, you will love this!)
The women in the book are, on the whole, strong and sympathetic. Mary¿s evolution is particularly amusing, as she develops from dreamy and world-weary student through hard-bitten ¿business-head¿ to proficient and resourceful revolutionary. If Rosemary, the heroine, appears at times to be a bit of a wimp, we can probably forgive her as she does go through some horrific experiences, kidnap being just one of them.
The main target of the book is clearly the dubious links between politics, big business and the media, and if you are looking for real substance then you will certainly find it here. The author¿s suggested solution to our current state of subjugation to the multinationals and the global plutocracy appears thrillingly plausible. I can¿t wait for other people to read this book so that we can discuss it! When do we get the ¿International Hope-ist Movement¿ off the ground?
If I have any criticism, it is that the British English used throughout contrasts with the apparently American punctuation (?), but this is a small thing. Overall I would have to say that this is one of the most inspiring, hope-filled, humorous and joyful books I have read. It can be read as a comedy, a love story, a philosophical treatise on the meaning of life, or as a political essay. I cannot recommend it highly enough. If I know anything about anything, this book is a cult in the making!