Noughties, by Ben Masters
When I first picked up Ben Masters début novel Noughties I was both sceptical and intrigued. With a protagonist sharing the first and last name of two of my ex-boyfriends and a narrative that I am all to familiar with (being a recent graduate myself) Noughties follows Oxford student Eliot Lamb as he celebrates his final night of University before heading out into the world and the rest of his life.
The entire narrative of the book focuses on Eliot’s sought after, and dreaded, last night of university with a number of flashbacks and dream sequences spliced into it. The flashbacks vaguely explain what is happening in the rest of the narrative and give some insight into Eliot’s character as well as the characters of his friends, especially best friend Jack, love interest Ella and ex-girlfriend Lucy, but they are incredibly hard to follow. The flashbacks and inexplicable (until the very end at least) dream sequences are sporadic in their appearance and content and are often not connected to what has just happened in the linear narrative. This vaguely fits as during the ‘last night’ narrative Eliot (i.e. the narrator) is getting progressively more and more inebriated and in drunken logic these interjections do make some sense.
Not only is the narrative hard to follow, unless you have a lot of experience following a drunk person’s train of thought, it is very hard for the reader to understand the world that Eliot lives in unless they have lived it too. In some cases it is rather difficult to understand even if you have been to university – whole passages that Masters (an Oxford AND Cambridge student) dedicates to aspects of university specific to Oxbridge that will not make sense unless you have attended one of the two.
Having said all this Noughties is very well written and the concept is an incredibly interesting one. Masters is an exceptional writer for someone of twenty-five and what he has achieved with the novel is worth praising but his target audience is very limited. Noughties is definitely not for everyone with its hard to follow narrative and even harder to follow vocabulary (which often just makes the protagonist come across as a pretentious prat) it is a good book if you come from that world but if you don’t it will leave you confused trying to follow what is actually going on.