Robert Glancy’s Unconditional is a funny yet also deeply moving sequel to his bestselling debut novel Terms & Conditions, about the power of love in all its forms.
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In Terms & Conditions, an amnesiac lawyer rebuilds his memory by drafting the Contract of his Life. But things unspool as memories pour in and Frank realises the condition of his life is a mess and the terms are rarely in his favour. Appreciating that life is all about the details, Frank plots his spectacular revenge in small print.
In this emotional sequel, Unconditional, Frank strives to erase the fine print riddling his mind in the hope of achieving a more spontaneous life. Frank falls in love, moves to Thailand, and everyone lives happily ever after.*
Robert Glancy’s debut novel Terms & Conditions was one of my favourite books of 2014. It was ingeniously told, fast-paced, and literally laugh-out-loud funny. In it he introduced us to a group of colourful, audacious characters that felt so genuine. You often hear of ‘characters coming alive on the page’, but I think this was the closest to it I have experienced. I wanted to know more of their life stories, beyond that novel’s conclusion — and none more so than Frank’s free-spirited younger brother Malcolm.
However, Glancy’s next novel published, Please Do Not Disturb, was another excellent standalone title. On display once again was his disarmingly authentic writing style and skilful characterisation. Then in late 2018, he quietly self-published this sequel to Terms & Conditions.
Emotion trumps laughs
Unconditional‘s steamy Thailand island setting is about as far as you could get from Frank’s past buttoned-up life in London, but nonetheless this reconnection with much-loved characters felt like a homecoming. Alongside Frank and girlfriend Sandra, readers get to know Frank’s brother Malcolm, the many layers of his life and colourful people in it.
Malcolm was less like a man, more like an electric current, the charge of which was trying to escape through his hair, shooting up in a blind Afro.
Meanwhile, Frank continues his quest to live more in-the-moment, supported by ‘the village’ that embraces him.
Meditation is like digging a hole in water: every time I scooped my mind filled.
Emotion trumps laughs
Fans of Doug the actuary (Frank’s old work colleague) will be pleased to hear that he (and partner) deliver some wonderful humour to this story. But in Unconditional, emotion ultimately trumps laughs and footnotes. The key theme of this sequel is love in all its messy permutations — romantic, familial, paternal. It is raw and moving, the narrative voice of Frank deeply personal and authentic.
Unconditional is a relatively brief novel which in parts reads as a life abbreviated (the associated time-jumps the only notable weakness in its construction/execution I thought). In spite of this, the plot, characterisation and narrative intensity still combines to pack a punch.
The enviable emotional connectedness of Robert Glancy’s writing and his wise take on the human condition oozes from Unconditional‘s pages. If you’ve not had a chance to experience his writing though, I highly recommend starting with the bestseller Terms & Conditions, in order to fully appreciate these moving character journeys.
BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 4 / 5
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Genre: Drama, Romance, Literature
About the Author, Robert Glancy
Robert Glancy was born in Zambia and raised in Malawi. At fourteen he moved from Africa to Edinburgh then went on to study history at Cambridge. His first novel, Terms & Conditions, was published by Bloomsbury in 2014 to critical acclaim. He was awarded the Grimshaw Sargeson Fellowship in New Zealand, where he currently lives with his wife and children. His second book, Please Do Not Disturb, was published by Bloomsbury in 2016. Unconditional is his third novel. As well as writing books, he has also written articles for The Guardian, The Independent, Daily Telegraph, Conde Nast and Esquire. Check out Robert’s website or connect with him on Twitter.Updated