Thomas and Mary: A Love Story by Tim Parks - review by D J Taylor

D J Taylor

A Life Less Extraordinary

Thomas and Mary: A Love Story


Harvill Secker 342pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

Thomas and Mary Paige, the main characters of this, Tim Parks’s seventeenth novel, first stumble upon each other at the University of Durham in 1978, plight their troth under the supervision of Tom’s clerical father and subsequently settle down into what looks like the most unruffled of bourgeois existences. There are two children, Sally and Mark, a number of relocations, a great deal of modest middle-class materialism, the making (by Tom) of a fair amount of money in advertising and the purchase of a decent-sized house on the outskirts of Manchester for the pursuit of their somewhat cautious but, we are led to infer, reasonably happy familial life.

And yet – or so we also infer – the relationship is not what it seems. As the decades pass, as the tenth anniversary gives way to the twentieth, as the children bustle into teendom and the silver wedding’s roses end up flung into the wastepaper basket, a suspicion that

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