Now the Christmas period is over, I’m back to my usual routine. Okay, so I haven’t actually done a 5 day week at work yet but at least I finally know what day of the week it is. As this is a Sunday where I had nothing planned, I spent the day listening to an audiobook. I bought quite a few in the January sale on Audible so I have a fair few to be getting on with. At the moment, I’m focusing on books that I can easily get done in an afternoon. Books that take somewhere between 4 and 7 hours seems like a good time. It means I can get everything else I need to finish and that I’m not focusing on listening for too long. I feel like any more than 7 hours of straight listening would be a bit much for me. I’m far too easily distracted by the things around me. Anything shiny or noisy would do it. This week’s offering was something that I’ve been meaning to read for a long time but wasn’t sure how I would feel about it. I’m a bit Alan Partridge fan but these comedy spin-off books never normally do it for me. It just feels like a desperate attempt to cash in. I figured hearing Steve Coogan narrate as Alan would at least bring it one step closer to a TV special.
This book is an absolute masterpiece. And those aren’t my words, Carol. They’re the words of Top Gear magazine.
I’m a big fan of Alan Partridge and I have been since I first watched The Day Today. I, like so many, think he is one of the greatest comedy creations of all time. He’s such a wonderful character and has so much comic potential. He says such offensive things but, because he’s also an idiot, you don’t hate him. Nomad is the second book that Steve Coogan has written in the guise of his most popular creation. The first, I, Partridge: We Need to Talk About Alan, was Partridge’s autobiography. His follow-up is more of a travelogue. In an attempt to feel closer to his father, Alan decides to follow the journey he once took for a job interview. He plans to walk from his childhood home in Norwich to the Dungeness.
Nomad is a book that tells the story of one man’s journey to rediscover himself by rediscovering his father by waking the same path that he once drove down. It’s written to be a powerful and introspective work that really gets to the heart of some important issues. Alan has a lot of time to reflect not only on what he encounters along the way but on his past. He wants to discuss his relationship with his father and how that helped him to become the man he is today. Unfortunately, Alan gets far too distracted with the various celebrities that he meets along the way. The book is full of classic Alan anecdotes and some great chat. There’s a great section about his rivalry with Noel Edmonds and an incredibly funny repeated joke about Clare Balding’s hair.
Deep down, Nomad is essentially a great parody of travel writing with a uniquely Alan Partridge twist. As he walks through the UK, he takes in the sights and sounds. He looks back on how much the country has changed. Of course, it’s all coming from his point-of-view so all of these insights are hilarious rather than meaningful. The joy of Alan has always been the hug divide between his sense of self and the person he actually is. His opinion of his own intellectual and philosophical superiority is perfect for a book like this. He says the things that nobody else would dare say. Mostly because they don’t make sense or are supremely offensive. The book plays with the Alan Partridge template and makes it work in a different format and genre. Nomad is so very Alan Partridge that I can’t see anyone who isn’t a fan already getting much out of it.
As I’ve said, Nomad is a great book but I can’t help suspecting that they struggled to find material to fill it. That would be the main explanation for the passages that recount so many things we’ve seen before. I’m not talking about brief callbacks to certain events from over the years because that’s to be expected. We all love a bit of fan-service and it would have been stupid to try and write this book without looking back. My issue comes with the extended sections of flashback that we’ve already seen. The most prominent being the hostage situation at the radio station. Alpha Papa was released in 2013 and Nomad was published in 2016. That’s long enough to assume that people have seen it and it seems unlikely that you’d pick up this book if you hadn’t seen the film. So, why did he need to go over all of the details of the film? It was much less engaging.
But, the rest of the book is full of amazing little tidbits of comedy gold. And I’m glad that I got the audiobook version because hearing it read by Alan himself only made everything work so much better. I’m positive that I’d have heard Alan’s voice in my head had I read the book but Coogan has such an understanding of this character that it feels like a book that needs to be listened to. Coogan knows what to emphasise and what to underplay. He knows exactly how to pronounce things to make it even funnier. I think it would be a shame to read this as a normal book if I’m honest. This is a book that is just crammed full of funny stuff and Coogan’s narration only makes it funnier.
Needless to say, I had the last laugh.