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  • Published: 19 May 2016
  • ISBN: 9781448182862
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 528

Serious Sweet

Longlisted for the 2016 Man Booker Prize: a topical London love story from the brilliant, prize-winning A. L. Kennedy


Jon is 59 and divorced: a senior civil servant in Westminster who hates many of his colleagues and loathes his work, he is a good man in a bad world.

Meg is a bankrupt accountant - two words you don't want in the same sentence, or anywhere near your CV. Living on Telegraph Hill, she can see London unfurl below her. Somewhere out there is safety.

As Jon and Meg navigate the sweet and serious heart of London - passing through 24 hours that will change them both for ever - they tell a very unusual, unbearably moving love story.

  • Published: 19 May 2016
  • ISBN: 9781448182862
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 528

About the author

A.L. Kennedy

A. L. Kennedy has twice been selected as one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists and has won a host of other awards – including the Costa Book of the Year for her novel Day. She lives in Essex.

Also by A.L. Kennedy

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Praise for Serious Sweet

Kennedy tenderly anatomised London and loneliness in Serious Sweet.

Ali Smith, Guardian, Book of the Year

So beautiful that it makes your head hurt.

Katy Guest, Independent

Serious Sweet is a magnificent novel, showing Kennedy at the very top of her game. Ambitious in scope, daring in execution, full of dazzling apercus and dark comedy… It is a tale of redemption, as serious and as sweet as you could wish for.

Rebecca Abrams, Financial Times

In equal measures, funny, sad and addictive… The opening pages had me holding my breath in fear and anticipation… Capturing the relentless hustle of London life to perfection.

Glenda Marchant, Stylist

A. L. Kennedy shakes her city until the right atoms collide. She stands back to give a picture of the whole of London on one day, and then suddenly swoops down to pick up a tiny detail.

Kate Saunders, The Times

Deeply affecting... Kennedy strips her characters emotionally bare… Serious Sweet portrays intense lives of quiet desperation: it is a novel about hope and muted courage and, at the end of the day, a very tentatively experienced optimism.

Hannah Beckerman, Observer

A. L. Kennedy's eighth novel is a profoundly moving, often funny, and at points rending depiction of two good people. Serious Sweet is about the heroism of decency; albeit damaged decency... Kennedy is not one of our finest writers simply because of the quality of her prose: she is because of the moral profundity of her work.

Stuart Kelly, Scotsman

This is a bold, cinematic novel... Parts of it are terrifically funny.


A genuinely stirring love story.

Mail on Sunday

Her flair for describing feelings and relationships makes this an engaging window into the messy minds of Londoners and her commentary on the city rings true.

Susannah Butter, Evening Standard

Determinedly and impressively intellectual… A novel of ideas that is deft enough never to be didactic because it asks more question than it answers.

Lara Feigel, Guardian

This is an author with a proven ability to see – truly see – and whose prose can fire like gunshots across the page.

Rebecca Swirsky, New Statesman

[Like] Sleepless in Seattle, respun by James Joyce, and set within a London on the precipice of Brexit.

Culture Trip

Her best book in years.

Justine Jordan, Guardian

Uniquely moving love story.

Jess Denham, Independent

Kennedy is never less than illuminating.

Susan Mansfield, Scotsman

[Kennedy is] witty, sharp, almost too intelligent and a bit provocative.

Eileen Battersby, Irish Times

An uplifting tale of the triumph of niceness over nastiness.

Adam Lively, Sunday Times

A writer of exquisite precision… A public novel, angrily political… Expressing her idea of a writer’s social responsibility so eloquently… Well-suited to Kennedy’s talent and her characteristically oblique and original way of seeing the world.

Allan Massie, Yorkshire Post

What sets this novel apart is Kennedy’s physical and emotional sensitivity to both solitude and tenderness.

Fiona MacDonald, Methodist Recorder

Absorbing… Serious without being solemn, sweet without being sickly, it’s an elegant tale about the unexpected places where kindness and sympathy can flourish and deepen.

Charlotte Heathcote, Express

Kennedy’s comedy is ruthlessly observed – an anti-romance that warms into something moving and profound. It’s also a brilliant portrait of city living.

Saga Magazine

Two lonely people go about their day in London in this typically Kennedian and utterly wonderful novel… but they find their way towards each other in an agonising love story that’s all about morality and decency in a careless world… Kennedy is a stand-up comedian, and observational comedy runs through this novel in interior monologues that are heartbreakingly familiar and laugh-out-loud sad. Her sentences are some of the best in modern fiction (there’s a springer spaniel called Hector with “black, bewildered ears… [that] made him look as if he’d recently heard dreadful news and still hadn’t adjusted.”) and reading her prose is like eating those fizzy sweets that are both sweet and sour make you wince at the back of your mouth – then go back for more… It’s gorgeous.


Consistently raw and powerful… emotionally exhausting… But there’s a lot to be said for a novel which sets so much store by “affection and tenderness”, and in which the emotional peaks and the possibilities of redemption and renewal are marked by the simple holding of hands.

Alastair Mabbott, Herald

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