Monday, October 25, 2010

An Intriguing and Very British Novel

Tim Roux: Shade + Shadows. Night Publishing, using CreateSpace. May, 2010. Paperback 262 pages, $11.95

The novel opens on an argument/discussion between Jane and Alan Harding, a middle-aged married couple who are clearly fond of each other. They use this light-hearted spat to relax party guests and get them in a lighter mood. Alan calls these little spats “the cyclical celebration of [our] being a cohesive unit.” This is representative of his way of speaking and thinking: formal, bland and rather detached. In Alan’s words, his and Jane’s relationship is “impenetrably harmonious.” It makes their daughter Sarah crazy. If they would only show some level of irritation with each other, but they don’t. Most people don’t behave the way they do, but they are not most people, they are Alan and Jane Harding.

A very successful chiropractor, practitioner of alternative medicine and healer, Alan is able to cure everyone’s ailments by combining homeopathy, kinesiology, distance healing, prayer achieve miraculous results that even he sometimes doesn’t understand. Some of his methods, which would be illegal in any medical and psychological practice, present no problem for him due, it seems, to patient loyalty.

Then, halfway through the novel Alan’s idyllic world begins to unravel due to some hidden secrets in his life as a young medical practitioner stationed in Saudi Arabia. There are some very ugly people involved, it isn’t very pretty, and it challenges Alan’s detached manner. Is all lost? You’ll have to read the book to find out, as I’m not giving the secret away.

The only problem I have with the novel is its voice which, because it is Alan’s voice, is as detached and bland as he is. But it is very much in line with similar characters I’ve encountered in British literature, movies (“Remains of the Day”) and BBC sitcoms, some of them beautifully parodying them (“Fawlty Towers” and “Keeping Up Appearances” being two of my favorites). That aside, I think it is well-worth the read, and for readers who really like this style, very much worth it. The story itself is an interesting one.

1 comment:

Tim Roux said...

Thanks, George.

I would agree with you about Alan Harding. He is semi-removed from the world, elusive, not quite real, like a lot of professional Brits. I mostly use uncomfortable narrators in my books because I love the way William Golding made a complete prig accessible to us in 'Rites of Passage'.

Alan Harding (actually named after a Financial Director I know) appears in 3 of my books. In 'The Ghoul Who Once' he is seen from the point of view of another narrator and is an almost total non-entity. In 'Fishing, for Christians' he redeems himself in the face of a universal holocaust.