The Lay of the Land by Richard Ford - review by John Dugdale

John Dugdale

Reality and Writing

The Lay of the Land


Bloomsbury 496pp £17.99

Frank Bascombe was a 38-year-old novelist turned magazine journalist when he first appeared in The Sportswriter (1986), and had lived for the past fourteen years in Haddam, New Jersey. Recently divorced from Ann – their children, Paul and Clarissa, lived with her – he was dating a Texan nurse called Vicki Arcenault.

Set five years later than The Sportswriter, in 1988, the year of the Bush Snr v Dukakis presidential election, Independence Day (1995) found Frank no longer writing at all: he now sold real estate, and part of the plot concerned his efforts to find a property in Haddam for troublesome clients. Also featured were his relationship with his new girlfriend Sally, and a road-trip with his troubled teenage son in the course of which Paul injured an eye.

The latest book in the sequence is again set in New Jersey, but Frank has moved east to Sea-Clift, a small coastal town. It is November 2000 (‘the millennial plague year’), and he still sells houses, running his own firm with thrusting, Tibetan-born Mike Mahoney as junior colleague. Sally has

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