Galley Beggar Press
Pub: 18th June 2015
‘I need to find Ess and look him in the face and tell him pretty much that the whole deal is slipping away from us. And then, if he wants to kill me, that’s no business of mine.’
Steven Strauss is off to India, and what he’s doing there will change his life forever.
This week’s review is another Curtis Brown Book Club offering, published by a small independent publisher and is the debut novel by Anthony Trevelyan.
I found this to be a very clever book. As we read, our preconceptions are constantly being challenged… right from the beginning we know that Ess will want to kill Steven, but by the middle of the book what we thought and what we were told merge into something different altogether. Trevelyan’s characterisation is very clever, and this may sound slightly off-beat, but I felt the story was akin to a piece of music. A soft start moves through various phases, some harsh and some very soft, until we reach a crescendo then float away, before descending to earth with a discordant phrase. Characters shift and just when we seem to know a character another chord comes in and the tempo and structure changes (yup… I know, slightly mad).
This is the story of Steven Strauss, PA to a businessman who is slowly losing his mind and who has gone to India to trace the purchase of the century… an anti-gravity machine. That’s if it really exists. Both Steven, the narrator, and Raymond Ess are complex characters, and as we meet Harry, Alice, Asha and Tarik they become even more so. Nothing is what it seems and an atmosphere of heat and paranoia pervades. Who do you believe? Steven with his task of keeping Ess away from his company as it crumbles to nothing, or Ess who seems to be drowning in self-belief and dreams of the impossible?
I came away from the novel with more questions than usual. Who exactly was Asha, was Harry working with others to keep Ess in check and what really happened to Tarik and his wife? I also had the feeling that Steven wasn’t looking out for Ess, but that Ess had manufactured the whole thing to look after Steven. But then again, other members of the book club thought the opposite.
This is a very good read. Although the concepts and scenarios can be taken at face value, there are complex undercurrents that will leave you wondering just what happened when you reach the end.
If you fancy a book that will make you think, with an undercurrent of paranoia and where nothing is what it seems (or perhaps, actually, it is), I urge you to pick this one up. Small publishers need some love, and this one really delivers.