Bibliophile | Comedian Robert Webb gets serious with ‘Come Again’

Come Again
by Robert Webb
Allen & Unwin

British comedian Robert Webb used to be part of a double-act with David Mitchell, starring in Peep Show on British television for 12 years. After heart surgery last year, 47 year-old Webb has quit drinking and smoking and is now focusing on writing. His debut novel Come Again is a romantic fantasy in which a devastated widow travels back in time to try to change the future.

Kate Marsden lives in London and has a fascinating job which she describes as re-writing history. Belgravia Technologies specializes in ‘reputation management’ where a person’s on-line history can be revised “because everyone deserves a second chance”.

Feisty Kate has an interestingly toxic relationship with her boss, who she met at university. Although the premise of the tech company was pure when she helped him create it, it has become more like creating fake news for wealthy people, and some of those people are far from pure.

We meet 45 year-old Kate in part one of the book. Titled Come Undone, it details Kate’s spiral into suicidal depression after the death of her partner of 28 years Luke Fairbright, who she also met at university. Needing copious quantities of alcohol to sleep, all she wants to do is go back in time and let Luke know about the brain tumour that is going to kill him.

The second part Come Dancing takes Kate back to happier days when she first met Luke and the few friends that have remained with her throughout her life. Although Kate regains her 18 year-old body as she enters York University on Orientation Day, she carries the wisdom she has gathered in the intervening years.

I loved this part, because Kate sees everything with a different awareness, and there are parts of my life that I would certainly like to be able to do what Kate is doing. Of course the sub-title of the book is a bit of a spoiler because you can’t fall in love for the first time twice.

“It’s possible to get it right the first time, but then, when you know what you know now – which you didn’t know then – you still think you were right the first time, but now in the second time there is a whole new first time, and this time something different is definitely right.”

The third part of this intriguing book, Come Again, fits unsteadily on top like a Lego tower that has been built too high and threatens to tumble. To re-engage with the present, Kate needed to return to the past, but the present has now changed. As Webb says, “As soon as you go back, everything starts to change out of your control.”

Lezly Herbert

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