03 Apr 2010

As we know, I’m a big fan of Paul Magrs’ novels.  So when I heard that one of them featured Iris Murdoch popping up in a chatroom, I couldn’t resist picking it up.  It nearly went to the IM Conference with me, in fact, but there wasn’t room in my rucksack!

Anyway, I am pleased to report that Iris does, indeed, have a starring role in this excellent read.  The book is based around a week in the life of a group of interconnected people living in Norwich.  The webs of interconnection become clearer throughout the book; the characters are all very different, and relate to one another in different ways (I particularly like the way Robin, an ageing English lecturer with a growing dislike of his students, changes when he’s in the chatroom: "Funkymonkey was Robin’s name.  When he was Funkymonkey he came on like an animal: all teeth and hair and no holds barred"),  often having their characters subtly changed by their encounters with one another.  Although each character is given their own set of chapters, and there is obviously a plan behind the book, it doesn’t feel at all forced or creative-writing-class-y (you know I’m going to compare it to "If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things" – well, that book could learn a lot from this one) and all the characters have their own voice and independence.  

Of course, I love Robin and his encounters with Iris Murdoch, as well as his wonderfully-described University life, full of postgrads trying to squeeze literature to fit their own particular theories; and I also really liked John and Darren, whose friendship is unlikely, tender… but is it too close?  An involving, funny read that’s hard to put down.  Fans of Iris Murdoch will not be disappointed; I loved the way she came across and thought it pretty darn perceptive and authentic.

Not so much magic and darkness as the Brenda and Effie series; this is more aligned in his oeuvre with the slightly-magical Exchange or perhaps the ensemble pieces like Marked For Life and Does It Show.

I will be offering this on a BookCrossing BookRing soon, to share a marvellous, touching and funny read.