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A blackly comic novel about the dissolution of a long marriage, from the bestselling author of Teach Us To Sit Still

Somehow it seemed to him the only thing that would really solve the problem would be to return to the sea and find the old ring with their names and the wedding date engraved inside, in 22-carat gold, and put it on again and then the world would magically return to what it had been before. Many years before.

This did not happen.

Thomas and Mary have been married for thirty years. They have two children, a dog, a house in the suburbs. But after years of drifting apart, things – finally – come to a head.

In this love story in reverse, Tim Parks recounts what happens when youthful devotion has long given way to dog walking, separate bed times, and tensions over who left the fridge door open.

Lurching from comedy to tragedy, via dependence, cold re-examination, tenderness and betrayal, Thomas and Mary is a fiercely intimate chronicle of a marriage – capturing the offshoots of pain sent through an entire family, when the couple at its heart decide it’s all over.


In this darkly funny work, Parks offers a story that doesn’t shy away from the complexity of relationships, and from the ineffability, indeed, impossibility, of the unmade decision.

Ayesha Manazir Siddiqi, Independent

Mordantly amusing, deeply sad novel… Plainly written, vivid portrait of a marriage… A cautionary tale for couples heedless of the care and kindness a good relationship requires, and a horror story for those who discover they are simply but irreparably mismatched.

Rosemary Goring, The Herald

A blackly comic study of a 30-year-old marriage.

Arminta Wallace, Irish Times

As effective an antidote to Valentine’s Day as you could find.

Stephanie Cross, Daily Mail

Restless, lightly mordant tale of lust and love lost.

Jeffrey Burke, Mail on Sunday

A subtle and painfully well-observed black comedy that will make some readers flinch with recognition.

Phil Baker, The Sunday Times

This forensic account of marital breakdown is breathtakingly honest… There are moments in Thomas and Mary…that will make anyone in a long-term relationship wince.

Alice Oâ??Keeffe, Guardian

Parks’s observations of family life are warm and funny.

Anthony Cummins, Prospect

A serious and penetrating study, always drilling down to the fundamentals, of family, love and middle-aged ennui.

Paul Genders, The Times Literary Supplement

Witty and pleasantly asymmetric.

UK Press Syndication

It’s a poignant portrait, like stained glass; a rich picture made up of all the small stories that make up a marriage, that make up a life.

Natasha Tripney, Observer

It’s a poignant portrait, like stained glass; a rich picture made up of all the small stories that make up a marriage, that make up a life.

Natasha Tripney, Guardian

Tim Parks is a writer with acute perception of human nature.

Shelia Grant, Nudge

Tim Parks, always sharp on domestic details… is good on the subtleties of office politics. And good on stormy passion, too.

William Leith, Evening Standard

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Formats & editions

  • Paperback


    January 30, 2017


    368 pages

    RRP $19.99

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