Hatchet Job of the Day
A bit old (holiday-induced time lag), but too good to pass up.
“The wry, rueful observations are meant to suggest Saul Bellow; the farcical, childishly sexual, fish-out-of-water element recalls Philip Roth’s The Prague Orgy. But the writing is not really up there.”
And, to the delight of history buffs everywhere:
“The grasp of detail is tenuous, too: in a flashback to 1940, Haffner remembers the BBC “supporting the Russian cause” by serialising War and Peace — but in 1940 the Russians were still allied to Hitler. Everyone knows that, but Thirlwell doesn’t.”
Barnacle wasn’t the first to lay into Thirlwell. Writing in the Telegraph the weekend before, Lionel Shriver delivered a wonderfully droll assessment:
“The plot mostly limps between farcical sex scenes, intended to be funny. They aren’t. Not only is the plot skimpy, but the flashbacks suffer from the same curiously static, dead quality of the novel’s present… Indeed, the only narrative drive this novel generates is the drive to put it down.”
Really, it seems they’ll let anyone into All Souls these days.