Friday, 30 November 2018

'Little' by Edward Carey

Grotesque and woeful in places, tender in others

'There is nothing more honest than wax. Everyone knows it. It can't lie'

An imagined biography of penniless Swiss orphan Marie Grosholtz who goes on to found Tussaud's waxworks museum.Carey moulds a feminist icon in Marie who believes in her own talents against profound hurdles.

Grotesque and woeful in places, tender on others.

Little by Edward Carey published by Gallic Books, 192 pages

Thursday, 29 November 2018

69 by Ryu Murakami

Stylish and evocative roman a clef

A landmark 'roman a clef' from Ryu Murakami set in 1969 at a provincial high school far from Tokyo's counter culture scene.

Alain Delon films and Simon and Garfunkel songs fill the void until the students launch their own ideological revolution.

Murakami's prose is stylish and evocative of a time in Japan where new optimism clashed with conflicting traditional values.   

69 by Ryu Murakami published by Pushkin Press, 192 pages

Monday, 12 November 2018

The Lingering by SJI Holliday

The Lingering (Paperback)

You'll have nightmares about taking a bath

Early on in SJI Holliday’s new novel The Lingering an eerie and unsettling backdrop is established. Using classic thriller tropes; the remote county house, the secluded group of people and the sealed off set of rooms, Holliday sets up an alluring premise but is this suspense writing by numbers?

Holliday’s protaganists, ex-policeman Jack and Nurse Ali arrive at secluded Rosalind House to join a secretive sect who offer respite and relief from the outside world through meditation and positive thinking. Charismatic cult leader Smeaton is at the helm and long-term resident Angela agrees to show the new arrivals the ropes. Quite what led these people to each find themselves at Rosalind House only adds to the drama.

As we learn more about the site itself  the mystery thickens with Holliday throwing in a nearby village with suspicious locals, a tradition of witch-craft and folklore, and diary extracts from 1955 when the site was used as a psychiatric facility. 

The Lingering is well written with an expert eye for pace and plotting. Most successful is the structure which interrupts the narrative, told in turn from the perspectives of both Ali and Angela with the diary extracts from Dr Baldock which creates tension which builds up through its flashbacks to the old asylum. SJ Holliday sets out to achieve a lot in this creepy thriller with clear influences from Shirley Jackson to Agatha Christie but what it lacks in singularity it makes up for in combining recognisable elements to weave together a jolly good fireside yarn.

Beware, you’ll be having nightmares about taking a bath but some time.

The Lingering by SJI Holliday published by Orenda Books, 256 pages

Monday, 5 November 2018

The Shepherd's Hut by Tim Winton

The Shepherd's Hut (Hardback)

Violent at times and tender at other

This is Australia at its bleakest. A boy on the run, a priest with a past and blisteringly hot salt-flats as a back drop. Tim Winton writes about desperation, isolation, faith and identity. 

Violent at times and tender at others this is raw storytelling.

The Shepherd's Hut by Tim Winton published by Picador, 228 pages

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

Another novel about a white man with problems? Think again

The cover of Andrew Sean Greer’s Pulitzer prize winning novel Less includes a suited man in free fall surrounded by loose pages of a manuscript. It’s a desperate scene conjuring images of the financial crash, of heroes falling from their lofty podiums and of celebrities exposed as frauds but is this just another novel about a white man with problems?

Less is part travelogue and part literary fiction concerning protagonist Arthur Less. Less is an erudite but second-rate writer who comes out of a long relationship with a celebrated poet and decides to travel as a means to work out what to do next with his life. Accepting invitations to literary festivals across the globe Less builds an itinerary of self-discovery knowingly designed to suit a gay man approaching the unknown territory of 50 years of age.

The novel is structured by the destinations on Less's global events calendar including France, Morocco, India and Japan to name a few. At each stop Less comes to terms with another anxiety whilst he plays out his journey of self-reflection. Yes, he’s self-obsessed and yes he’s self-serving but just when the story is about to descend into another middle aged white guy wallowing in his problems Andrew Sean Greer injects sharp wit and self-deprecating humour to make this as much an ode to middle aged masculinity as it is a modern gay self-help book.

In a particularly meta moment Less reflects on the glory of winning the Pultizer, ‘Pull it sir’, prize which Andrew Sean Greer went on to win for his own novel. Less himself would no doubt have approved. 

Arthur Less is a brilliant every-gay-man for a new generation who not only want to read the novel but want to follow his travels on Instagram. 

Less by Andres Sean Greer published by Lee Boudreaux Books

The Long Take by Robin Robertson

Silver screen tropes and movie icons

Long form prose poetry meets classic Hollywood noir in this Chandler inspired piece about a hack reporter on the rain drenched streets of LA and San Francisco. Robertson's prose is lushly cinematic as it plays with silver screen tropes and movie icons. 

The Long Take by Robin Robertson published by Picador Poetry, 256 pages