The book begins with Unsworth’s narrator, Helen Burns, walking out on her boyfriend when he proposes to her. Although Pete the chef is a decent guy and provides security, the fire just isn’t there any longer, and it becomes clear that Pete was her refuge after a passionate but disastrous affair with an unreliable physicist. We are used to the setup – the good one who’s always there but lacks some indefinable charge versus the bad one who will fuck you around but who you love for his certain, well, frisson (or brio). It’s the classic proforma from Jane Austen to Bridget Jones. And not much in the way of instruction. For the world is full of good men who have that frisson, and bad men who are also dull and unattractive.
Max Dunbar reviews Emma Jane Unsworth‘s Hungry, the Stars and Everything.