170 pages. Less a novel than linked vignettes (some rather episodic) telling the stories of a few people. There are flashes of lush prose -
- "He had been reborn into the nightmare of truth" (p.8)
- "When I was young, about fifteen maybe, I dreamed that a boy would wash up on the beach in front of our house. I would sit for a long time listening to the sea" (p.72)
- "as a caretaker I woke up at 5.00 a.m. Beyond each pane were the outlines of things coming - a world drawn fresh from the memory of yesterday " (p.111)
and sometimes extended fragments -
His drawing is unfinished.|
The outline of another world.
He feels this one by imagining others.
Play is where he recognises himself.
Closing his bedroom door on one life because there are so many.
His mother shouts at him to get dressed. He indignantly stands, driven by the engine of his heart.
The tyranny of school.
The shuffle of toast and the scrape of butter.
The kettle driving ghosts into the world. (p.42)
I most enjoyed John's escape back through France, and the last few lyrical, eventful pages of the novel.
There are 3 pages of acknowledgements, mentioning dozens of names.
- Chris Power (The Guardian) (The story of five characters and the revelation of the bonds between them gets lost in the endless striving for beauty and significance)
- Toby Clements (Telegraph) (Each character is beautifully drawn, with a rich interior life, starkly different from one another in their experiences, yet each with a curious ache in their hearts. What emerges is a delicate, complex, moving novel, one to withstand – demand even – an instant second reading.)
- Joy Lo Dico (Independent)