Scrupulously, and brilliantly written from the protagonist’s point of view there is nothing allowed beyond the narration of Toby’s direct experience, tortured memory and/or imagination. I was so enmeshed in the narrator’s understanding, or lack of comprehension, of himself, and his history, that I almost came to doubt my own grasp of what ‘certainty’ might mean. The ensemble of characters, the detail of their behaviours and their ignorance of their realities is bewyching. No spoilers here – but as I finished the last page I was bereft, immensely sad and overwhelmed.
It is, ostensibly, a crime novel, which makes as much sense as saying that Dostoevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’ is a ‘thriller’. I hadn’t read any of French’s work until this book – I shall remedy that oversight.
The blurb on the back cover is good but doesn’t do it full justice.
I couldn’t put it down.
There is so much to take from this work e.g. what Fieldfares can do to an attacking hawk; “Newspapers rely on keeping us in a constant state of anxiety, on diverting our emotions away from the things that really matter to us.” And insight and argument into the human condition in the this century and the dilemmas we all face and not just in Poland.
The new book from the distinguished poet Robin Robertson ‘The Long Take’ is superb; its quality and jaw dropping range make it the most fabulous work I’ve read in a very long time – a bit like when I first discovered Charles Bukowski.
Its subtitle, ‘A Way to Lose More Slowly’, suggests that the central character, the ex GI, sometime newspaper man and alcoholic, Walker, is on a journey and we’re going down there with him all the way. It doesn’t easily fit any category; it’s not a novel, it is & isn’t a poem, it is a many layered narrative, and it’s noir as in film noir. No spoilers, but it refers back to lost love in Nova Scotia before the second world war, is set in California between 1946 & 1953, makes continued use of cinema of the period and locates the origins of Walker’s pain within the horrors of WW2 in Europe. The cities of LA & San Francisco along with their down and out skid row inhabitants are also major players – characters. It feels absolutely authentic and is viscerally thrilling confronting expectations of what to expect next. As with all great writing it not only illuminates the past but informs an understanding of the human condition in the present. Robertson’s research, underpinning his extraordinary imagination, is staggering. It’s hard to single out any lines, paragraphs or stanzas, so I won’t try. It’s beautiful and frightening to read. And perhaps most of all it’s a movie.
As a writer I found this inspiring. I shall read it again. A great book! Do take a look.