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When George Goodnight, a lawyer on the staff of a London newspaper, finds his marriage has gone sour, his family holiday is cancelled and his car, broken down on the motorway, has been stolen, he walks through a gate in a fence on a summer's day in the middle of England. What he doesn't know, as he takes his first light steps across the sunlit meadows near the tiny village of Somerbourne Magna, is that he is embarking on a course that will take him far away from the country, the surroundings and the way of life he has always known. He is embarking on a journey that will eventually take him to the other side of the world.

As in his earlier books, Arthur McCann and All His Women, Bare Nell and Ormerod's Landing, Leslie Thomas shows himself to be a master of the sustained narrative novel of adventure and romance as he evokes his hero's fitful progress round the world. Along the way George has close encounters with storms at sea and in the air; with poverty and despair; with true love and exotic passion. He spends Christmas in prison, encounters a substitute for the son he never had and tracks down a girl who was swopped at birth for some rare stamps. Always he moves on.

Sometimes touching, sometimes hilarious, sometimes alarming, the adventures of George Goodnight and his shadowy alter ego, Oliver Loving, represent stages in what is both a quest for excitement and love and a haunting evocation of what happens when a man starts running away from life and can't stop. The descriptions of the cities and villages George travels to and the extraordinary cast of people he encounters are sparkling and authentic. This long, swirling novel, with comedy in its buttonhole and pathos at its heart, is a tour de force and wonderfully enthralling read.

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