The Greatest Love Story of All Time, by Lucy Robinson
The Greatest Love Story of All Time is the début novel by Marie Claire blogger Lucy Robinson. It’s not a title that takes itself seriously; the book is instead an incredibly funny story of the disasters of love in the digital age, including the hazardous world of internet dating.
The story begins with journalist Fran in a miserable, sorry (and rather disgusting) state, having refused to get out of bed for three weeks after being dumped by her perfect boyfriend, Michael, on her thirtieth birthday. After two years together, and noticing that Michael is carrying a suspiciously ring-box shaped object on the way to her birthday dinner at the Ritz, Fran hopes that Michael is about to propose. Instead they take a worrying detour on the way to the restaurant, where Michael seems to have a sudden panicked change of heart and decides that they need to take some time apart from each other. Three months with no contact, to be precise.
Fran is devastated and shuts herself away in her flat to rot in bed feeling sorry for herself, with only her mad cat Duke Ellington for company. That is, until her group of friends eventually break into her home to get her to pull herself back together.
The plan they come up with is for Fran to sign up to an online dating site and go out with eight men during her separation from Michael. She reluctantly agrees, but the story soon focuses more on Fran’s obsessive stalking of a beautiful and glamorous stranger named Nellie Daniels who, after a bit of snooping, she suspects is behind the breakup of her relationship.
If you’re a fan of Bridget Jones’ Diary, you can’t help drawing the occasional mental comparison as you read. Especially when Fran, who’s trying desperately to be a Serious Journalist, continues to instead make a fool of herself and get things drastically wrong. But the book takes a familiar and well-loved subject matter – a woman living in the city, turning thirty and finding that her career and love life haven’t exactly turned out how she’d hoped they would – and updates the genre to the present day and its obsession with digital technology. It adds the complexities of matching-making websites, texts, emails, Facebook, and all the other methods of constant communication that further confuse the modern search for love. With some eccentric friends and a lot of swearing thrown in, the result is outrageously funny.
This is the sort of book that you have to be wary of reading in public as it will have you laughing out-loud, as long as you’re not offended by bad language (the very worst expletives are used freely and profusely throughout). The cast of characters, particularly Fran’s friends, are incredibly likeable, with all their imperfections, flaws and eccentricities adding to their appeal. The plot takes some unexpected turns and has a momentum that keeps you reading, with a subplot involving Fran’s mother also adding a more serious side to the novel.
It has to be admitted that the closing chapters are a bit clichéd. It’s not how the love story ends – that part gives readers just what they want – but where. The setting is a device that has been rather overused to conclude romantic plots, and after such a hilarious and original narrative throughout it seems a shame to resort to it. Despite this, the book as a whole is a very fun and entertaining read, to be easily and quickly devoured.
Lucy Robinson is currently working on a second novel, and in the meantime her blog at Marie Claire also provides endless comedy. To give you a taste, a recent post is titled ‘The day the world met my breasts’ and contains a story that is just as outrageous as it sounds.