Reviewed by Magdalena Ball
Will You Love Me Tomorrow
by Danny Gillan
ISBN-13: 978-1905108633, Dec 2008, Paperback
How could you not love a book that opens in the midst of a first person narrated suicide and still manages to be funny? Bryan Rivers is a musician who is in the late stage of a suicide when we join him. It’s a hard opening to manage, but Gillan does it with ease, setting the black edged humour of the book perfectly. Though it would have been easy to turn the tortured, depressed musician into a cliché, the reader instead is treated to Bryan’s fumbling attempts to find a pen and piece of paper to write his wife, Claire, a farewell note. By this point in the story, Bryan is in the midst of overdose induced stomach cramps, and it isn’t an easy matter. But he wants to apologise to Claire. As he mentally recounts how he got to this point, it’s almost possible to follow him. In other words, though his almost accidental slide into suicide is a tragic waste, the reader immediately begins to like him and mourn his passing along with his wife Claire.
When, three days after his suicide, record producer Jason Clements offers him the contract he’s waited his whole life for, it’s beyond ironic. But despite Bryan’s death, life, and good music, go on. Danny Gillan’s Will You Love Me Tomorrow is about as black as humour gets, and yet it never becomes farcical or loses the poignant edge. Certainly there is humour and a cast of characters that are real enough to remind you of your favourite boss or in-law. Bryan’s overly pragmatic and usually angry brother Thomas plays a strong part, as does the greedy Fortuna executive Phillip Doland, who is the one caricature in this novel. Claire, Adam, Bryan’s best friend, and Jason are all quirky and deep enough – grappling as they are between guilt and self-actualisation – to believe in and provide a good balance to Doland’s antics.
The humour is sometimes strong enough to get you laughing outloud – from Adam’s crazy haircuts, Jason’s goofy attempts at impressing Claire,or even in the midst of Bryan’s suicide:
He couldn’t believe it. Please let it be a piss-take, please. But it wasn’t. He managed to keep listening as the rest of the travesty played out.
His favourite song by his all-time favourite band had been raped! Desecrated! Mollocated! Violated! Buggered up! Ruined! No, not ruined obviously, there was still the original, but he knew he would never be able to listen to London Calling again without this tragic mockery springing immediately to mind. (11)
But underneath the humour, there is transformation. Claire, Adam, and Jason all grow throughout the course of the novel, and Bryan’s very believable depression is handled with sensitivity, providing a thoughtful foil to the lightheartedness of the interactions. The balance between the shallow and financially driven world of the recording industry, and the serious emotional toll of this loss on Bryan’s family is handled deftly, never giving in to sentimentality.
Each chapter begins with a quotation from one of Bryan’s songs, and although the poetry itself isn’t strong, it does help to keep Bryan at the centre of the reader’s focus. Though the book is never sad as such, the reader’s privy perspective from the novel’s start creates a poignancy that underlies the zany. Will You Love Me Tomorrow is an easy, fast paced read, full of funny twists and pithy insights. There’s a musical spring to Gillan’s style that belies the seriousness of his topics, covering a broad range of topics including the impact of depression and death on friendship, love, how we move on past tragedy, the music industry, art versus public relations, and family jealousy.
About the reviewer: Magdalena Ball runs The Compulsive Reader. She is the author of Sleep Before Evening, The Art of Assessment, Quark Soup, and, in collaboration with Carolyn Howard-Johnson, Cherished Pulse and She Wore Emerald Then. She runs a monthly radio program podcast The Compulsive Reader Talks.