From The Guardian:
If Hanif Kureishi’s new novel has a fault, it is that its secondary characters are often so full of life that they upstage the principals and this is a fault for which most writers would cheerfully kill. The hero, Jamal, is not only in a reflective profession – he’s a Freudian analyst – but also at a stage of midlife limbo. He’s still involved with his 12-year-old son Rafi (‘We touch fists and exchange the conventional middle-class greeting, “Yo bro – dog!”‘), but on terms of armed truce at best with his estranged wife, Josephine. No wonder the eye of the reader, that magpie, is drawn to Jamal’s rough diamond of a sister, Miriam, overweight and much pierced (‘parts of her face resembled a curtain rail’), reigning over the semi-criminal disorder of her council house, as she starts a relationship with her polar opposite, Jamal’s prissy yet wild intellectual friend Henry, a famous lapsed theatre director. From one point of view, she is the supreme distillation of various brands of bad news into a single prospective partner. On the other hand, as ‘a Muslim single mother with a history of abuse’ who has few taboos and ‘sees straight to the centre of things’, she’s practically perfect.
In addition to his practice, Jamal has a reputation as a writer of case studies, presumably of an Adam Phillips variety, aphoristic and philosophical (‘Why do you want to fail? Why is pleasure hard to bear?’). Paradox comes with the territory, since the territory is the human mind, secreting paradox incessantly. At one stage of his past, for instance, Jamal wanted to be with a woman he didn’t want, a seemingly heartless television producer, out of mourning for lost love.