‘The Faithful Couple’ is very different from A. D. Miller’s first novel ‘Snowdrops‘, a crime thriller set in post-Soviet Russia which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2011. While the judges of the Prize that year were famously looking for books that were “readable” and “zip along”, ‘The Faithful Couple’ falls into the more familiar Booker Prize territory of traditional literary fiction. It tells the story of two British men in their twenties, Neil Collins and Adam Tayler, who meet at a hostel in San Diego in 1993 a couple of years after graduating from university. Although they come from very different backgrounds, they quickly strike up a firm friendship. However, a betrayal during a camping trip in Yosemite casts a shadow over their relationship over the next two decades.
Purely platonic male friendship is a theme which is rarely explored in great detail in literary fiction and for the most part, Miller explores the topic assuredly and thoughtfully. The book is divided into long chapters covering different points of Neil and Adam’s lives over the next twenty years or so after they first meet which ensures that the story moves along at a good pace as they navigate new responsibilities and relationships throughout their twenties and thirties. I think the main characters of ‘The Faithful Couple’ are much more memorable than those in ‘Snowdrops’ and Miller’s prose is just as compelling. He has a particular skill for creating striking metaphors and similes.
On the other hand, without wanting to give too much away, I wasn’t fully convinced by the betrayal in California and their shared guilt having such widespread repercussions for Neil and Adam’s friendship so many years later, even with several other events and emotions mixed in. It didn’t really strike me as an event which would bind two people together and define their friendship for as long as it does here. If anything, it should have created more reasons for Neil and Adam to not stay in touch after returning to the UK.
Nevertheless, while I didn’t think the main plotline was particularly realistic, Miller’s portrait of Neil and Adam’s relationship in the subsequent years is perceptively written with a great deal of nuance. Consequently, it’s the characters which really carry ‘The Faithful Couple’ rather than the story.
Many thanks to Little, Brown Book Group for sending me a review copy of ‘The Faithful Couple’ via NetGalley.