Monday, May 08, 2006
I found CANDY compulsive reading. Some of the location details, the feeling of place - the train track leading in to Liverpool Street Station, the disorientating effect of emerging from the Underground at King’s Cross - are so similar to my own experience that reading these passages was something akin to deja vu. Some of the characters are also painfully reminiscent of people I knew in the past. Thankfully, however, I’ve never met anyone like Iggy. His villainy is utterly convincing, and his self-aggrandisement, his sense of theatre (also an entirely believable characteristic) allows for some thrillingly gruesome dialogue. The scene where the main characters, Joe, the first-person narrator, and Candy, the object of his obsession, finally cross the line that divides their past from their future sees the monstrous Iggy, tied up but terribly conscious, yelling at them “...you better run…you meats now…you my little meats!”
An atmosphere of deep foreboding, masterfully built and sustained, hangs over proceedings from the outset. The story highlights the contrast between hopeless, obsessive love and addiction to heroin, an uncomfortable parallel more often explored in popular music than in novels for teenagers. But CANDY has its own scuzzy rock soundtrack built into the plot. Joe is a talented but unfocused member of a band called The Katies. One of the various twists in the storytelling resulted in this reader being more interested in The Katies success than the narrator is himself!
Although essentially non-judgemental, there is plenty of harsh reality on show - teenage prostitution, drug addiction, violence - and I was left with a considerable sense of desolation by the end of the novel. But this book is also a genuine thriller, tense and gripping throughout. The violent climax that builds from the very first page is finally resolved in a way that is at once shocking, surprising and satisfyingly right.
The final scene reminded me somehow of the conclusion to Orwell’s NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR. Orwell’s book ends with two former rebel lovers both having lost some essential part of themselves forever. In CANDY the ending is in some ways more open, but there’s also more than a little suggestion of clouds gathering overhead in this melancholy, minor-key last track.
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