Book Notes: Simon Lelic’s The New Neighbors

Fear of London’s ridiculously expensive real estate market and fear of human connection come together in this thriller. The result is a novel that is as tortured as its repetitively abused characters.

The worst thing about it is that it’s very fake. Is anybody really stupid enough to take on an enormous London mortgage with “a girlfriend”? Especially a girlfriend who is a completely unhinged drug addict? And then casually toss away a job on a dumb whim when one needs to be paying down the enormous London mortgage?

The characters behave like they are in a soap opera, never worrying about money even though they are supposed to be poor, spending no time at work, and concealing everything big and small from each other to create potential for screaming matches.

The only characters in the novel who are honorable, normal, not chaotic and pleasant to read about are immigrants from Iraq. The question, of course, is why people from a place that allows for such great psychological health would need to seek refuge in a culture where everybody is a totally messed-up freak who can’t function without violently assaulting everybody else every 5 minutes. Obviously, the genre rests on the use of stereotypes but here it’s too extreme.

In short: I didn’t like it.

UK and US Mysteries

One major difference between American and British mysteries is that in the latter the crimes are solved by studying CCTV footage. So rather than a search for a criminal, it’s a search for CCTV recordings and then for people who have time to stare at them for hours.

In American mysteries it’s rarely a factor at all.

Is that because the UK is a smaller country and much more of it is covered by cameras?


Putin is playing a typical S&M (aka domestic abuse) game with the US. He provokes, provokes, provokes, and then finally gets his ass whupped and is content. That is short-lived, though. The anxiety begins to build, and the cycle repeats.

The tragedy is that this is always done at the expense of completely innocent bystanders. It’s a bloody shame that the US allows itself to play this ridiculous role. This kind of game doesn’t end until one of the S&M pair dies. Or leaves the relationship. And that’s unfortunately rare.

A Gauge

I follow this childless couple on FB even though I don’t even know them. They are the kind of people who always travel, go out to new restaurants, bars, concerts, etc. The reason I follow them is because I use them as a gauge for my psychological health.

When I see the photos of their adult late-night outings, I always think, “Wow, that’s such a fun place! And they both look amazing. Cool!” And that is healthy.

If I thought, “I wish I could also do that but I can’t because I’m a parent of a small child. This stinks, I hate my life,” that would be a sign that I’m not in the best place psychologically.

If I thought, “yeah, they are having fun but that’s at the expense of the most meaningful thing in life, which is to be a parent,” that would mean I’m doing really poorly and need to start addressing it urgently.