Michael Frayn is the bestselling author of Headlong and Spies. His 1990 novel The Trick Of It is a comical look at an odd couple. Original and witty, Frayn tells a complete story through one-sided letters. Compact, light and entertaining, The Trick Of It is a clever tale.
A nameless college professor writes letters to an esteemed friend living in Australia. The professor is a critic who has dedicated his life to teaching and explaining the writings of a profound female writer. He knows her books inside and out. He, perhaps, knows more about the author than the author knows about herself. When she comes to speak at the college, the professor is overwhelmed. He worries that she cannot possibly live up to all he has made her out to be.
However, the critic and the writer wind up spending the night together. Eventually they marry, and he discontinues his teachings. After all, how obscure would it be for a husband to teach classes about his wife's writings?
The letters to his friend continue, updating him (and the reader) on the progress of the relationship. The letters at times are full of sadness, though expressed with wry humor, as when the friend announces the birth of their child. The critic responds with his congratulations, and then feels like a nitwit for announcing the birth of theirs. Of course their child is his wife's latest manuscript, weighing in at "ten pounds five ounces, our little monster." He goes on to talk about the manuscript as if it were really a child, and of the jealousy he feels as the father watching the natural bond occur between the new book and the author. After all, she spends day and night with her typewriter, creating and creating. What husband wouldn't have mixed emotions about such things? Pride and loneliness. Then there are the hopes and dreams he envisions for the success of the latest novel. And, of course, there is always the book that he and his wife lost. How sad, so sad.
From beginning to end, Frayn's easy writing style allows the reader to settle in and enjoy The Trick of It as if it were written expressly for them.