By Douglas Coupland
Harper Collins Canada
Beside the obviously and openly borrowed title, taken from a 1987 single , many comparisons can be drawn between this book and The Smiths. Taking a heavy dab of British styled irony and with a tang of Morrissey like moroseness, Girlfriend In A Coma is one of those underrated novels, known by a fair few but appropriately credited and praised by nowhere near enough people. So, here’s my attempt to do something about that.
The now fifty three year old Canadian author Douglas Coupland is known by hordes as “the guy who wrote Generation X”- his 1991 debut and worldwide bestseller, but the man now living with the prestige of both an OC and OBC has so much more to offer.
Coupland’s fourth novel takes a more dreamy approach, focusing in on a group of teenagers, and most notably the eternal couple of Richard and Karen. After their mutual defloration at a ski resort, aged seventeen, Karen slips into a coma induced by a surprisingly lethal combination of a vodka tipple and two medicinal pills stolen from her mother. As she lies in her hospital bed, her concerned partner Richard reads a letter she earlier gave him but instructed him not open, and it is revealed that strangely, she predicted it all.
Karen hopes to sleep for a thousand years, avoiding the forthcoming dystopia and remaining in personal peace. Meanwhile, times ploughs on and the original adolescent bunch still remain a gang, through their pitfalls and personal struggles- existing on a world that is coming to its knees.
Pre-millennium paranoia leaves its bitter taste in the discourse and storyline, but the writer’s slick, television-like prose boils this otherwise heavy novel into something even only very casual readers could enjoy with ease. The depressive undertone may put some off, but themes of loyalty and love will prevent any hearts turning to ice as each new chapter begins and the fast, if not rushed seeming ending is bound to leave many longing for more Coupland as Girlfriend In A Coma reaches its 281 page conclusion.