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Published: 05 March 2009
Genre: General & literary fiction
When Robert Purcell, aged eight, read his father's entry in Who's Who, he saw his own life unfolding before him. Like his father, he'd get a first in Law, then enjoy a distinguished career as a barrister and a judge. For a long time, everything went to plan. Then his life fell apart. He committed a crime. He went to prison. Now he's out, his wife has told him to write an account of who he is and why he is who he is. What drove him to his crime? To an English gentleman who loathes the confessional culture such emotional striptease is torture. Nevertheless, A Short Gentleman is that confession. An intellectual giant but an emotional pygmy, Robert struggles to come to terms with the forces that brought him down: Elizabeth, the wife who wanted him to change, Judy Page, the ex-girlfriend who came back to haunt him, Pilkington, the childhood bully who grew into an adult bully, Mike Bell, the old friend Robert was always happy to patronise. Finally, there's his father, who proved, at the end of his life, not to be the man Robert thought he was. Despite everything, Robert remains heroically determined to carry on being the same magnificently pompous and self-righteous man he always was, utterly resistant to therapy, change and the emotional demands of the opposite sex.
Canter is a sharp writer with a wickedly dry wit. His precise style is a joy to read, combining riotous humour and moments of genuine pathos
An English comic novel which is elegantly written, civilised and genuinely funny, there are smiles on almost every page. It never tumbles into farce, for it is a comedy of character, observation and tone, rather than of incident...the triumph of the novel rests in Canter's ability to maintain an assured tone, to write in a manner which allows us to believe in his narrator while making us fully aware of his deficiencies...The comedy is rich
Allan Massie, Scotsman
Brilliant, but for God¹s sake don¹t let this book fall into the hands of any women - if they find out what we¹re really like we¹ll never hear the end of it
Jon Canter projects a series of funny, sometimes hilarious, incidents in which the comedy is structured rather than slapstick, verging on the licentious but masterfully avoiding it
This is light reading but deceptively so, offering deliciously well observed vignettes of the top legal set'
With great panache and assurance, Jon Canter lampoons the pretentions of England's top legal set...this comic tour de force.
Emma Hagestadt, Independent
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Jon Canter grew up in Golders Green. He studied law at Cambridge, where he was President of Footlights, before becoming a TV and radio scriptwriter. Among the comedians and comic actors he's worked with ...