I picked up â€œRestlessâ€ by William Boyd the other day. I loved â€œAny Human Heartâ€ and I was looking forward to this. Itâ€™s not bad but itâ€™s not good either. Itâ€™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 â€œTom Bedlamâ€ 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 â€œuncorrected proof not for sale or quotationâ€ emblazoned on the cover. I really loved his first book, â€œThe Lamentsâ€. 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 Dickensâ€™s own family with Oscar the parliamentary reporter as Dickens (this sentence should read â€œLook at me, am I not clever? Yes, yes, youâ€™re right, Iâ€™m a geniusâ€). I am not sure that this works for Mr. Hagen. Dickens does Dickens better and the comparison doesnâ€™t do Mr. Hagen any favours. I feared the worst.
The early sexual fumblings of our hero reminded me unpleasantly of Henryâ€™s sexual awakening in â€œA Star called Henryâ€ which is a dreadful Roddy Doyle book. I would say his worst but I havenâ€™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.
Jack Dalton says
But ‘waf, so much of both literature and living is about lives that cross and re-cross in deeply unlikely ways. What needs to be suspended?