This book is a good evocation of the times in which it was set and its descriptions of the places where they lived – Dorset villages and the London bedsit were evocative. It is a tale that needed to be told but it lacked editing – too many clangers and innuendoes, well-intended but people kept reading because of their interest in the characters.
Suicide effects so many for people for such a long time after the event. Assisted suicide is very topical at the moment but it is still suicide. A particular case prompted two different authors to write two very different books and this is one of them. This book begins with the suicide of a young man for whom we are likely to feel considerable sympathy. We may also admire the great effort he put into obtaining drugs on the internet and also admire the priest who non-judgementally and without intervening commends his soul to God, like the Samaritans who believe in people’s right to self-determination. We may wonder how harmful it could be, at a coroner’s inquest, to tell the truth: it will effect life assurance policy payouts as well as people’s emotions. I, like someone in this book, question the swearing of oaths on a Bible: if you believe in its contents, you will be aware that it tells people not to swear oaths at all; if you don’t believe its contents, what is its deterrent effect upon the subsequent telling of a lie?
This abrupt start gives us enough details to carry us along and the effect on other people begin to unravel and ricochet. We then get chapters devoted to each of the main characters that jump about chronogically but are like the filling in of a jigsaw. The structure is similar to his earlier Notes From an Exhibition’.
The author is very knowledgeable about the workings of the Church of England, also of how heavy drinking can appear to provide warm feelings and a good mood with no obvious ell effects.
The central character is an unusual priest.
I have a very clear image of the various houses in the novel, such is the author’s skill at word-painting.
I had never thought before that seagulls attack wheelchair users eating food. And I’d never heard of the card game eucre before.
I also doubt whether slang like ‘cool’ and ‘yoof’ were current in 1967.
This is one of those books which I read quickly, wanting to know what happened to each of the characters but then feeling sad that I’d got to the end and would have to leave their world to come back to my own little world.
Written by a ‘gay novelist’ who is now simply a novelist, there are gays everywhere lurking in the histories and lives of ‘ordinary’ straight people.