This book has won prizes and rightly so. The prize I would give it, is the prize for the book that sounds like an Arab Strap album made into a book – this is a good thing. It is full of middle-aged depression, disappointing sex in the afternoon in grotty bedsits or the store room round the back of shops, damp cardboard – in fact there’s a whole lot of damp in this novel – a barge / office, slumped into tidal mudflats and occasionally shifting.
The damp is all the rain and the mist and rising damp on the walls, and the marshlands and the river hostage to its tides, and the tears and the mould in bathroom and even the horrors that one elderly sees as he pisses in a toilet bowl. It’s all there, wringing wet and slumping. It is a complete joy.
Shaw, our main man, is in his mid-forties, going nowhere, unsure why he is still alive, having occasional sex with Victoria who moves away to look after her dying mum, but keeps coming back. She buys him a fish sculpture (water again), which he hates, but can’t tell her. And there’s Tim, Shaw’s sort of boss, and maybe neighbour and maybe spy / conspiracy theorist, sending Shaw around the country selling his self-published novel.
Shaw’s mum is drifting away with dementia, in her old folks home and never gets his name right when he visits. Which he does, religiously. And which he hates doing, fervently.
A sodden dystopia, a wretched end of the pier Brexit-land. Shaw knows we’re all fucked and there nothing he can do about it, not that he would have the energy, even if he could.
I liked the feel of this book so much, I bought another one by him. I think you should too.