THIS IS YOUR LIFE by John O'Farrell

Nothing wrong with dreaming big in life, planning your future from a young age, writing letters to yourself to be read when you become a grown up and are actually famous. There is only a problem of course when you don't become famous, when you don't achieve that greatness that you know you were destined to achieve. Instead you become a lowly teacher of English as a second language in an English backwater town, leading a pretty down at heel sort of wasted life. Single, broke, bored, disillusioned.

Poor Jimmy Conway, life was supposed to be such a different kettle of fish! And now his life has amounted to very little. He still harbours the desire to be a world famous stand up comic, the novel opening with him about to do a routine at the Royal Variety Performance, his childhood dream about to come true. But oh dear, it is all a lie, the result of a huge fabrication that Jimmy has himself created, aided and abetted by those who should know better. Bizarrely he becomes a victim of his own success!

And how did this peculiar set of circumstances come about? How does a nobody find himself in the wings of the Royal Albert Hall, petrified out of his wits, the fool playing to the fooled? Through a chance encounter with a famous stand up comic who promptly dies of a heart attack, Jimmy finds himself plunged into the world of the rich and famous, his reckless joke making taking on a life of its own.

As much a satire on the game of fame, as well as a serious commentary on the price of fame, this is a novel that could so easily have spiralled out of control, yet remains totally held.  Jimmy is actually very funny, and I am surprised he never has made it as a comic, because he is funny on paper! See, even I am beginning to think Jimmy is a real stand up comedian. A bit like The Emperor's New Clothes, Jimmy the Stand Up Comic is a complete fabrication. The joy of the novel is how he gets out of his potential fall from grace, how he loses friends and wins them again and best of all finds joy in his life, peace and contentment.

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