I picked up “Restless” by William Boyd the other day. I loved “Any Human Heart” and I was looking forward to this. It’s not bad but it’s not good either. It’s a spy thriller which is not a genre that I am very keen on but it kept me turning pages. The story is told by two female narrators; a mother who was a spy in the second world war and her daughter who is finding out about it in the 1970s. I found his female voice for the daughter particularly unconvincing and rather jarring although I was pleased to see that whenever he had her jaunting off, he carefully placed her child in the hands of a friend who appears to have been introduced to the story solely to provide babysitting services. The ending is very good but, overall, could try harder.
For my birthday, I got “Tom Bedlam” by George Hagen from the publishing exec. It thrills me to the core to have clutched in my little paw a book with the words “uncorrected proof not for sale or quotation” emblazoned on the cover. I really loved his first book, “The Laments”. It reminded me quite a bit of John Irving but whereas I find he can be a bit cloying, I thought Mr. Hagen much less so. Like John Irving then, but less annoying though he is also a fan of the alarming accident to move the plot along.
His second book is very different from his first. It is Dickensian. It is set in Victorian London and, by gum, it teams with characters. I suspect it is deliberately Dickensian and I wonder whether the Limkin family are intended as some kind of nod to Dickens’s own family with Oscar the parliamentary reporter as Dickens (this sentence should read “Look at me, am I not clever? Yes, yes, you’re right, I’m a genius”). I am not sure that this works for Mr. Hagen. Dickens does Dickens better and the comparison doesn’t do Mr. Hagen any favours. I feared the worst.
The early sexual fumblings of our hero reminded me unpleasantly of Henry’s sexual awakening in “A Star called Henry” which is a dreadful Roddy Doyle book. I would say his worst but I haven’t been foolish enough to read its sequels. Unpropitious but, in fact, I really enjoyed it in the end. It requires an enormous suspension of disbelief as the characters’ lives cross and re-cross in deeply unlikely ways, but I found that quite entertaining. I was sorry to finish it, particularly since the ending was a bit weak compared to the rest of the book. Nevertheless, great stuff overall and am eagerly awaiting his next offering.