Patrick is still in love with his separated wife. Returning with their son after a trip to an amusement park, he begs, one last time, to reconcile with her. When she refuses, he is driven to thoughtless desperation: a bottle of sleeping pills, a bottle of whisky. And in his dying dream, he revisits that theme park of childish desire. There he finds the landscape - still garish and indulgent - has evolved. The attractions are religion, money and sex. The characters - costumed and acted - are transformed into Jefferson, Xunzi, Aristotle. And their purpose is to instruct Patrick in the pursuit of happiness throughout human history. But Patrick can only answer with his own story. He remembers falling in love with Louise. Recalls the enlightenment of their youth and the banality of their family life. He tells of their marriage, how it came under strain after the birth of his son; how he cheated; the unravelling of all his joy. Yet still his love persists.
Beginning with the first line of Dante's Divine Comedy and taking in Disneyworld, the Declaration of Independence and the canon of philosophy in its stride, What You Want is a literary feat: a novel written entirely in verse, depicting life in all its ordinariness. It gives voice to a new Everyman and brings forth an unparallelled modern epic.
'It's an everyday story, but elevated to an epic by the author's extraordinary decision to write the entire thing in rhyming couplets ... Phipps has pulled it off brilliantly; the literary pyrotechnics are a constant delight' The Times. 'There will be no more deliciously eccentric book published in 2014 than this ... Phipps's rhyming pentameters have a conversational fluency, and his novel bristles with big ideas ... The book's engagement with such mighty themes as love and male aggression provide ample food for thought. It is a curious book, but pulled off with real panache' Mail on Sunday. Spectator Books of the Year reviews: 'Moving, scary, funny, endlessly interesting and much the best book I have read this year. We have a Pushkin in our midst, with his gift of saying incredibly sad - and deep - things in bubbly and often ingenious verse' A. N. Wilson. '[Has] a sense of deep wisdom ... Truly moving and beautiful' Molly Guinness. 'I loved What You Want ... Phipps is a hero ... beautiful, peculiar, and in the end very moving' Cressida Connolly. 'Mesmerising ... Intelligent, enjoyable and often profound' Piers Paul Read. 'Unlike any other book published this year, indeed this century ... Dante, adultery, theme parks, psychotherapy - it's all here, but unjokily so, and one of the most moving things about the book is the unusual texture of its melancholy seriousness' John Lanchester, Guardian. 'It is a disquieting story; the writing is honed, as intense as a volume of poems. The author's bravado pays off' Financial Times. 'A strangely wise and moving novel about our search for meaning, written in fluently witty and unpretentious verse' Rupert Christiansen, Daily Telegraph. 'The most daring novel to have appeared in English for decades ... A Dantesque journey into marriage, theme parks and Freudian theory, it is written in rhyming couplets and needs to be read in sections, preferably aloud, late at night, and in the round' Frances Wilson, Times Literary Supplement. 'Forges something new. This is rather an extraordinary, even sublime, achievement ... His work has a purity of purpose whose form both delights and teaches' Philip Womack, Spectator. 'Subtly reminds one of Matthew Arnold's 'Dover Beach' and of T.S. Eliot ... This is a remarkable book ... It exhibits great artistic control, and a surprisingly straightforward gift for a rattling good read. Its conclusion is masterly and moving' Charles Moore, Telegraph.
Constantine Phipps was born in Yorkshire and is the author of two previous novels: Careful with the Sharks and Among the Thin Ghosts. For many years he has been involved in property development and has interests in the UK and Canada. He lives in London with his wife, the author Nicola Shulman, and has four children.