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Thomas Bloor

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

After a three month hiatus.

I haven't written up a book log since July so here are three in one:


As a fictional form, the first person narrative - written as if one of the characters is telling the story - is deceptively simple. In fact, it’s very hard to do well. Kevin Brooks is very good at it. All three of these stories are told in the first person. Three very different characters take centre stage. Martyn, eponymous central character of MARTYN PIG, is an intelligent introvert. He is quite unlike the hard-boiled lone avenger Philip Marlow of Raymond Chandler's crime novels. And yet there is still something Chandleresque in this thriller. I think what links the two is the palpable sense of loneliness that hangs over both storytellers. And in Alex, Martyn's unrequited love, you have a classic film-noir femme fatale. And yet Brooks somehow manages to avoid any trace of the anti-female bias that often accompanies such conventions.

With Moo, the narrator at the heart of KISSING THE RAIN, Brooks achieves a seemingly impossible task. Moo is utterly convincing as a tongue-tied and inarticulate teenage outcast. Brooks doesn't compromise with Moo's relatively limited use of language. And yet the storytelling is as compelling as you could wish. He is able to describe the mindset of someone who has developed a complex inner life, quite hidden from the outside world. And that's where the story is told, inside Moo's head. The intimacy of the telling works wonderfully.

LUCAS differs from the other two books in its rural, summertime setting, and in the gender of its narrator, a girl named Caitlin. Although she is very much at the centre of the plot the focus of her story is on another character, Lucus. This is in contrast to Martyn and Moo, whose stories revolve around their own troubles. And there’s real mystery in Lucas, a character who emerges from the natural world like some kind of feral creature.

Where all three stories find common ground is in the sense of isolation experienced by Brooks' central characters. And this sensation is common to the experience of being a teenager. Brook's seems quite at home depicting his characters from the inside out and has a reconjuringf conjouring up the teenage pschye.

I've not yet read CANDY, though I'm looking forward to it. The title and subject matter suggests the songs of The Jesus and Mary Chain, whose music I've always found richly cinematic and full of narrative possibilities.


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