David, whose first wife has been killed by a terrorist bomb at Heathrow, infiltrates the shifting alliances of the middle class revolutionaries in some sort of attempt at closure on his failed marriage. But as he meets charismatic Kay and sinister Doctor Gould, has he fallen in love with violence?
A strange book. I found it difficult to accept the basic thesis that the comfortable bourgeoisie would, feeling trapped, throw it all away. The characters all did strange things; I never really identified with anyone. They seemed too much like puppets on a stage set by the author. If you want a book about middle class revolutionaries you might try Saturn's Daughters by Jim Pinnells set in the anarchist world of nineteenth century Russia, where real, well-to-do woman indulge in real crimes of violence.
The Guardian review of this book says it is "one of the most amusing novels I've read in a long time" so perhaps I misunderstood it: it was meant to be funny.
It was extremely imaginative and deeply embedded in reality. Real places were described with perfect accuracy; people were grounded in physicality. Acts of violence were full of sickening details. It made it even harder to understand how the protagonist could be seduced into complicity with the perpetration of these acts.
A book that made me think.
There were some stunning lines:
- “Not for her sake. For yours. ... You don't love her. I know that. But you still hate her. That's why you have to go.” (p 21)
- “Heathrow approached, a beached sky-city, half space station and half shanty town.” (p 25)
- “Being law-abiding has nothing to do with being a good citizen. It means not bothering the police.” (p 52)
- “ I told them to take their cameras into the bedroom and make a porn film Fucking is what they do in their spare time so why not look at it through a camera lens? They wouldn't learn much about sex but they’d learn a lot about film.” (p 53)
- “Tourism is the great soporific. It's a huge confidence trick, and gives people the dangerous idea that there's something interesting in their lives. It's musical chairs in reverse. Every time the muzak stops people stand up and dance around the world, and more chairs are added to the circle, more marinas and Marriott Hotels, so everyone thinks they're winning.” (p 54)
- “Knowledge-based professions are just another extractive industry. When the seams run out we’re left high and dry with a lot of out-of-date software.” (pp 79 - 80)
- “Have you noticed how vocabularies fluctuate in order to cope with our need to justify ourselves” (p 103)
- “They see that private schools are brainwashing their children into a kind of social docility, turning them into a professional class who run the show for consumer capitalism.” (p 104)
- “Gould withdrew into himself, retreating behind the bones of his face.” (p 128)
- “Starter homes ... rabbit hutches for aspiring marriage.” (p 133)
- “Looking for God is a dirty business. You find God in a child’s shit, in the stink of stale corridors,in a nurse's tired feet.” (p 137)
- “First wives are a right of passage into adult life . I many ways it's important that first marriages go wrong. That's how we learn the truth about ourselves.” (p 138)
- “Sex with Kay is like a resuscitation that's gone slightly wrong. You're deeply grateful, but parts of you are never going to be the same.” (p 168)
- “The guinea pigs had lured the experimenter into the maze.” (p 220)
September 2017; 294 pages