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Plume

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  215 ratings  ·  39 reviews
The dark, doomy humour of Care of Wooden Floors mixed with the fantastical, anarchic sense of possibility of The Way Inn, brought together in a fast moving story set in contemporary London.

Jack Bick is an interview journalist at a glossy lifestyle magazine. From his office window he can see a black column of smoke in the sky, the result of an industrial accident on the edg
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Hardcover, 352 pages
Published May 16th 2019 by Fourth Estate
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Average rating 3.65  · 
Rating details
 ·  215 ratings  ·  39 reviews


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Blair
The whole time I was reading Plume, I kept thinking, I can't account for how compelling this is. All 350+ of its pages are devoted to events that unfold over a handful of days. The concept of a failing writer sliding into depression and personal chaos is not exactly unexplored territory for literary fiction. The narrator devotes whole paragraphs to describing mundane actions – a delayed journey to work, a gruelling meeting, the opening of a can of lager – with levels of detail that should be sop ...more
Sam Quixote
Aug 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Magazine writer and secret alcoholic Jack Bick is about to have an interesting week. He must interview two famous subjects and produce two draft features before week’s end - or maybe he’s fired? And then an actual fire erupts in London, giving off a plume of smoke. Except Jack sees smoke even when it’s not there. And cockatoos. There are plumes everyplace - plumes of smoke and the yellow plumes of cockatoos! Prize-winning novelists, real estate moguls and tech gurus - it’s all kicking off in Jac ...more
Paul Dembina
Rather pedestrian compared to my expectations which are often set by the cover quotes. In this case these quotes are either written by Mr Wiles' mates (both Adam Roberts and James Smyth are mentioned as friends in the acknowledgements) or wildy inaccurate (David Baddiel invokes Kafka for some reason when the book appears to have no connection to Kafka or his style whatsoever)
I also don't like this style of humour when we are asked to enjoy someone else's misfortune. The main character is an alco
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Jackie Law
May 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Plume, by Will Wiles, is set in contemporary London, albeit one that makes no reference to multiculturalism. Its protagonist is Jack Bick who works as an interview journalist for a glossy lifestyle magazine. It explores such fictions as: truth, memory, aspiration, and social media.

When Jack first moved to London it was still possible to get a foot in the door of journalism without first serving as an unpaid intern. It was possible to believe that, one day, he may become a home owner in the city.
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SueKich
Jan 28, 2019 rated it liked it
A city - and a story - spiral out of control.

Jack Bick is a high-functioning alcoholic though fast becoming a barely-functioning one. He works as a journalist interviewing notable luminaries of the London scene for “one of the few physical magazines that look certain to weather the eschaton of the analogue, because business-class lounges would always need something to go on their Noguchi coffee tables.” But he’s under pressure to produce two big pieces in a matter of days and that’s going to ser
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Roz Morris
Apr 28, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: didn-t-finish
I was drawn to this by the description, but unfortunately it's not for me. Other reviewers found it to be fast-moving and witty. I found it repetitive and lacking in charm. Did not finish, but I got nearly half-way so I think I gave it a good chance. ...more
Nicholas Masters
Well that was a surprisingly fascinating journey. It’s amazing how compelling writing can be when one is drawn into someone else’s life.

The take on contemporary London is frightening, and sadly a lot of it is true. Thankfully there is also the almost dystopian aspect that Tamesis brings to the party, although it doesn’t take much imagination to envision a world where this is true (to be fair it is mostly true).

Jacks need to suppress reality is almost palpable. The portrayal of his alcoholism and
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Caroline
May 26, 2020 rated it it was ok
2.5 stars

My rating for this book could be attributed to reading during lock down! I couldn't associate with the characters, found myself too lost in the narrative to really understand the plot and after a while just desperate for it to end.

Perhaps during another time this book would have captured my attention more.
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Catalina
I am at a loss for words. It was going so well...and then in the last 20% something happened, or didn't happen, to just throw me. I guess the final just didn't click for me...not that I was having a good idea of where the story was going, but the ending just left me confused. So confused in fact, that I have no idea what rating to give(and I've slept on it for days, but I am still as confused as after I've just finished it.)
In the grand scheme of things this is a cautionary tale about how data c
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Alan
May 19, 2019 rated it liked it
‘Here was the future, rising from every phone and computer and device like so much blinding smoke. I could confront it or ignore it, but it was coming. Or I could join it.’

Modern day London, and Jack Bick – journalist, alcoholic, cynic – barely makes it through the working day. His relationship has failed, his next-door neighbours are having building work done keeping him awake at all hours, and his bosses at the magazine where he works look pretty much certs to fire him in a downsizing operatio
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Siobhan
Feb 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Plume is a a novel about contemporary London, truth, and alcoholism, tinged with a darkly comic writing style and an ominous atmosphere. Jack Bick writes features for a magazine and pretends that his drinking isn't a problem. When a column of smoke appears on the London skyline outside his office, it feels like an omen, particularly along with Jack smelling smoke all the time. He tries to ignore this and goes to interview reclusive writer Oliver Pierce, who reveals a secret about his most popula ...more
Jessica Hinton
May 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley-review
This is a fantastically written book, that I personally found really difficult to get into. We meet Jack, our protagonist, and right from the outset, something is clearly wrong with him. He is an alcoholic, but a functioning one, or at least he is clinging on by his fingertips. The plume of smoke erupting from the other side of London grabs your attention and I was fully ready to be going on a dystopian ride, where something hideous is happening in London.

And something hideous is happening in Lo
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Alex Storer
Sep 18, 2020 rated it liked it
"Care of Wooden Floors" and "The Way Inn" were two of my favourite novels from a new author in the last few years; the latter in particular was so original and utterly hilarious. So on the announcement of "Plume", I was really looking forward to another book from Will Wiles.

"Plume" is very well-written, expertly told and well thought out with excellent character writing. But despite this, I just didn't particularly enjoy it. In Wiles' previous works, the Kafka-esque journey bordered on slapstick
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miss.mesmerized mesmerized
A fire somewhere in London attracts the people’s attention. Where is it exactly? What is burning? Is it dangerous? But Jack Bick has other problems. His alcohol consumption is totally out of control which highly impacts his job as a journalist at a lifestyle magazine. This has not gone unnoticed and his superiors virtually hold a pistol to his head: either he runs an interview with a real estate manager or he is out. Jack, instead, is highly fascinated by an author who hasn’t published anything ...more
MisterHobgoblin
May 21, 2019 rated it liked it
Jack Bick is an interview journalist for an upmarket London magazine. He has a good track record, but the magazine seems to be drifting and Jack has the feeling that he's about to be let go. In what he expects to be his last week on the staff, he has two interviews to conduct: Oliver Pierce, a psychogeographical writer who hasn't had a follow-up to his bestselling work some years ago (Jack's idea); and an estate agent/property developer that his editor has told him to interview. Given the two op ...more
Juliette Grd
Nov 24, 2020 rated it it was ok
This book was given to me in a book box subscription. Originally it's not something that I would have picked up myself.
The front cover is really pretty, I love the color and the birds add a nice touch to the whole lot. I like how the author's name and the book tittle are written.

The book itself I struggled with. I found it to be very slow and rather basic and boring. There wasn't much punch to it and it just seemed to drag on. The main character made me feel rather annoyed about him because of h
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Sam
May 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
In Plume, Jack Bick is a journalist who is barely able to keep his life together. Every act is based around when and where he can get his next drink. Bick gets black-out drunk, which allows him to do things he forgets that push the plot along. It is inexplicable how he is hanging on to his job.
Jack has two interviews to turn things around, which is about two more than he can manage. He goes to interview Oliver Pierce, a novelist. A big story accidentally falls into his lap, and the reader is sur
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Steve Bowbrick
Sep 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I won't be the first to point out that this is 'Money', only with surveillance capitalism instead of Hollywood. Our duo-syllabic lead - Jake Bick - is at least as ruined (by drink in the form of endless cans of Stella, rather than by the high-end cocktail of intoxicants favoured by Amis's hero) and self-hating but perhaps a bit more sympathetic. The middle section is so miserable and stress-inducing (at least for this middle-aged man who makes his living in the media) that I could barely get thr ...more
Angie Annetts
Nov 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Not what I expected...
From the cover, this novel was depicted as being a humorous read - which was how it accompanied me to the till. Expecting some kind of madcap read about a functioning alcoholic thrashing about, I was instead presented with a very dark story about the inner workings of present day London. It kept me gripped enough to get to the end, but overall, it wasn't what I'd been looking for. This is no fault of the writer, whom I suspect had little input into the boasts on the covers
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Sandra
Oct 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
I read an excerpt and interview with the author in the Guardian a few months ago, and was sufficiently intrigued to read the rest of the book. It is slow to get going, but somehow you feel compelled to keep on reading. The story is told from the point of view of Jack Bick, an investigative journalist and alcoholic, whose career is slowly going down the pan. For me, the writing is at its best when dealing with his addiction and how it affects every area of his life. I found the rest of the book a ...more
Michael
Aug 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
My first book by Wiles, Plume can be seen in many ways as a companion piece to Sam Byers’ Perfidious Albion.

This is a story of a personal collapse, mapped out against the broader landscape of the ongoing collapse of society in the face of rampant capital and technology. Wiles has a good eye - his writing about Shoreditch and the changing East End is on the money, and there’s a darkly satirical project at work here.

It took me a little while to get momentum on this, but once I did it was unputdo
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Fiona
Nov 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
There’s nothing harder to look away from than a car crash unfolding in slow motion. At first I thought I wasn’t going to enjoy this book as I had nothing in common with its protagonist - male, Londoner, alcoholic - except being a writer. But as Jack Bick gets sucked into the vortex of his own destruction it’s impossible to look away. From the halfway point I found it hard to put the book down. It’s a very intelligent look at modern life. I would have given it 5 stars but some bits are slightly f ...more
Ali Collins
Jan 02, 2021 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Katrina
May 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: e-book, netgalley, fiction
3.5

Was caught a little bit by surprise with this title. After a slow beginning and a premise that seemed to have the potential to go to some trite places, Plume slowly transformed into a compelling look at addiction. The story is peppered with a dark humour as well offering insights into a number of themes which fit perfectly with its contemporary setting.

Recommended.

With thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the arc.
Matthew Abaitua
Nov 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant. Handles speculative elements adroitly: love the enduring image of the burning plume, the thing you cannot face. Redefines London novel for this generation of writers, excluded, renting, overtaken by capital and technology. Also compelling on addiction: the constant worrying about the fridge and exactly how much beer is left in it. Recommended to me by the novelist Christopher Priest, this novel marks out a terrain that intrigued me that lies between autofiction and SF.
Sam
Jun 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book is a great example of a novel weaving together several seemingly different themes into a coherent whole. The commentary on alcoholism, the socioeconomic state of London, and social media are each valid and interesting. Plot-wise the story is gripping but doesn’t end satisfactorily and there are certain parts (the middle third) where it seems to meander aimlessly. Overall it’s an excellent read for modern times though.
Julie Hudson
Sep 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
I really liked this book, I read a preview copy. The language is so elegant and evocative - the descriptions of the desperate need and lengths he goes to go get the next drink, of life in London, of every day activities were all so beautifully described. I thought the characters of Oliver Pierce and Quin were a bit ludicrous but thoroughly enjoyed everything else.
Isabelle
Apr 25, 2020 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. I enjoyed the London setting and tech references, but couldn’t get excited about the main storyline.
I wouldn’t exactly describe this as ‘kafkaesk’ (David Baddiel’s review, and the reason I picked it up).
It reminded me bit of McEwan’s ‘Solar’, with the narrator being a middle-aged man failing at life and marriage.
Nancy Jones
Jan 20, 2021 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2021
I don't get it! The main story-line - alcoholic journalist, blackmail, fighting for his job - has potential and I genuinely wanted to see Jack Bick succeed. The rest of it just baffled me! The smoke, the app, the mugging- too much going on for me and no real ending or 'solution'. Not a fan I'm afraid! ...more
A Reader
Oct 21, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: novel
A vivid and surreal representation of life in modern London through the eyes of a young, alcoholic profile writer in a lifestyle magazine. The struggles of young professionals, the job insecurity, the housing crisis and the role of social media in shaping attitudes and opinions.
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