1. Great review.

    ‘(“The side mirrors fold out by themselves like ears”. I’ve never seen ears do that.)’ – Nor me, though I certainly want to. Do you think this was an example of a ‘transient simile’ he meant to revise?

    ‘This seems part of a wider flaw in Van Booy’s writing: a weakness for significance, which leads to many dramatic one-sentence paragraphs, or a character saying “What a beautiful thing to say,” when another character says something beautiful.’ – A violent clang of alarm bells at this, John.

  2. I read this a couple of weeks ago and it is easily my favourite read of the year so far. Yes, his writing can be very pretentious in places, and some of his sentences are so abstract as to be meaningless, even if they do sound beautiful (the woman lighting candles with the flame of her eyes in the prologue – eh?). But I was so wrapped up in the story, the characters, the themes and the fantastic writing (of which there is plenty – the kind that makes you want to memorise bits for the pleasure of hearing it again) that I could forgive him pretty much anything.
    I especially liked the section with the letters on hotel stationery – that could so easily have come across as gimmicky but instead ended up being one of the most deeply affecting parts of the novel.
    I hadn’t read either of Van Booy’s story collections before but needless to say I’ve snapped up a copy of each.

  3. Thanks for your comment David – am I right to presume you’re the David who praised this book on the Man Booker Forum?

    I liked the sections on hotel stationery too (though will admit that this was partly because they were quicker to read than full pages of text…). However it did also set off my forensic analysis impulses, when I noticed for example that a postcard (actually earlier in the book than those letters) which was supposed to have been sent decades ago used a 1st class stamp with ‘1st’ on it. However these were only introduced in 1989…

    And you may find a kindred spirit in RobAroundBooks, the most ardent Van Booy fan I know of…

  4. Yes, that’d be the same David (the one who also occasionally posts on Palimpsest with the girl-riding-a-dinosaur avatar).

    I’d not realised that about the stamp. It actually took me quite a while to figure out when the novel was set – it felt vaguely 50s or 60s to begin with (which may have something to do with the style of writing) but then there was a reference to Rebecca’s Renault Clio which rather took me by surprise!

  5. Yes, I think it was deliberately ‘timeless’, though the very fact of no mobile phones or PCs made it seem dated to the 1980s or early 1990s. (Renault Clios were around from 1990…)

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