Disgruntled commuters everywhere will rejoice over Martin Harbottle's Appreciation of Time by British journalist Dominic Utton. The novel is based on the author's true story and centers upon "Dan the man," a husband and new father who moves to the English countryside and commutes, via train, to his job at The Globe newspaper. Fed up with 14 months of chronic delays, Dan, a writer, tracks down the e-mail address of the railroad director, Martin Harbottle, of Premier-Westward rail lines and fires off an e-mail expressing his frustration: "My boss was annoyed with me when I arrived in London; my wife will be annoyed with me when I arrive home again in Oxford. And none of it's my fault. It's your fault."
The goal of each subsequent correspondence—99 e-mails in all—reflects, in tone and length, the duration of Dan's daily inconveniences due to chronic railroad service delays. Dan believes that if his time has to be wasted, so, too, should the director's, who sporadically writes back to Dan with cautious reserve. What begins as an electronic gripe session spirals into a largely one-sided memoir, where Dan opens up about his life sharing his tastes in music; his impressions of fellow commuters; scandalous current events and politics at his newspaper; the challenges of his home life, especially a wife suffering post-natal depression; and Dan's temptations with alcohol indulgence and a potential extra-marital entanglement. All of this adds up to form a wholly original—and very entertaining—modern epistolary novel.
Oneworld Publications, $15.99 paperback, 9781780743721, 256 pp
Publication Date: February 25, 2014
Note: This review is a reprint and is being posted (in a slightly different form) with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (3/7/14), click HERE