Posted by: Corri van de Stege | July 24, 2011

Nicholas Shakespeare – Inheritance [a book review]

Amongst the list of unread books on my e-reader was Nicholas Shakespeare’s InheritanceI love my e-reader as far as novels are concerned: I have meanwhile downloaded so many books that there is something for different times and moods. Inheritance is a fairly easy to read book and the story is quite a catching one.

Imagine that unwittingly you end up in the funeral parlour of someone being cremated and you don’t know this person at all, but simply because you are there you inherit £17m. Just like winning the lottery, although even then you would have made the effort of filling in a ticket.  This is, however, what happens to Andy Larkham, a disorganised and underpaid editor of Carpe Diem, a publishing company that specialises in self-help books.  Andy always arrives late, wherever he goes and so when he tries to find his way to the chapel ceremony for his most loved teacher, through the rain, he misreads an 8 for a 3 and ends up in the wrong chapel,
the one where Kirkor Marketich’s service is being conducted with exactly one other ‘Attender’, his housekeeper.   His daughter arrives late and is not allowed to sign the attendance book.

Whereas the first part of Inheritance is all about Andy and his chaotic and rudderless life with so much happenstance that you wonder he has kept it together this long, once it becomes clear that because of this mistake, he will inherit £17m, as this was the condition laid down by Marketich, that anyone attending his funeral service will receive an equal share of his vast wealth, the book takes a sudden and different turning.  Now the focus is on the life of Marketich and his estranged daughter Jeanine and the role played by his housekeeper Maral in his life.   Throughout it all there is the teaching of Montaigne, pursued in an unpublished book by Andy’s teacher and the importance of accepting and finding who you really are.

Andy does not come out well in the first part, he is really what we would call an asshole of the first order, who never really has come to terms with himself or his childhood and so when he unexpectedly inherits this vast amount of money he leads the kind of life that goes nowhere, except from one hotel to another, one party to another and one woman to another, forever drifting along in his stupendous wealth.

Then all of a sudden the book switches both character and gear and there is an almost historical account of what happened to the
Armenians when they were slaughtered in the early 20th century and it’s then about how Marketich, once he has left Armenia and settled in Canada with his parents, denies his Armenian background, just as Andy has been trying to avoid coming to terms with his own childhood.  When Marketich later on lives in England he assumes a different name and presents himself as a real Englishman.

Some of the messages seem a bit contrived, the story too full of coincidences and not quite believable, however, the book is a good read and because the pace is well-kept, the situations at times hilarious and funny, you haven’t got the time to get bored.  Also, the sober message that in order to find fulfilment in life you need to accept who you are and where you are from, is well woven into the story.



  1. Sounds like a really interesting read and a nice departure from my usual reading fare.

  2. Kathleen – just go for it!

  3. I agree with you about this book. I was intrigued by the cover, but ended up getting an ebook copy.

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