Magazine article The Spectator

Bruising Times

Magazine article The Spectator

Bruising Times

Article excerpt

The Champion

by Tim Binding Picador, £12.99, pp. 434,

ISBN 9780330513791

In a market town in Kent at the time of Thatcher's Britain, Charles Pemberton attends the town's minor public school where his businessman father is a governor.

Back in the 1930s, his grandfather Clarence had had 'the right idea', which was to build an eight-foot wall across a residential road in Oxford to separate his family home from newly built council houses.

There is no such fortification available against the arrival at the school of Clark Rossiter, 'a London chuck-out' from a fringe estate, thanks to his sports scholarship, boxing being just one of his talents. 'Large', as he is soon admiringly known, storms the puny citadel and carries off Sophie Marchand, the maiden everyone desires.

Power simply rested in his half-clenched hands, his watchful eyes. Girls too he treated to the same skill. One round, two, he'd have them flat on their backs by the third at the very latest, bells ringing in their ears.

School over, Large works first for the local council in park maintenance and then as a commodity broker in Canary Wharf.

Milquetoast Charles, thoroughly educated in what Michael Gove would call the core subjects, abandons university after one term to become a chartered accountant. When Large turns up at Charles's dowdy office with Sophie Marchand, now his wife, in tow, the scene is set for a long, convoluted, bleak, black, disquieting showdown between complacency and avidity, timorousness and hectoring bravado, greenhouse and Jacuzzi, Aga and induction hob, pursed lip and fat lip in a land where money no longer brings responsibility, 'money was the responsibility'. …

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