Last night my wife went off to her local book club and I was so jealous. Not for the normal reason, that her book club is in a pub and I was missing a few pints. No, because she was going to have a chance to discuss with a peer group the book they had all read. I had just finished reading Roz Morris's novel and it has left my head in a spin, with no pub full of cronies to help out.
As a musician, author and reader of literary fiction myself, this book was potentially right up my street. I know the author is a ghost writer and her blog posts are usually along the theme of music in fiction or writing advice. But what if it was crap? What if it was over-stuffed with in-your-face musical references and a writing style like a paint-by-numbers exercise?
I needn't have worried. From the first few pages I was in comfort. Then I began to experience discomfort. Not with the prose or undeniable musical influence, but a shared discomfort with the protagonist as she battled with a debilitating, lifestyle threatening malady. As the literary themes developed it became difficult to put the book (well, ebook, I read it on my kindle) down.
The main themes that came across to me in this book were threefold: how much a life can be impacted by devotion to a single pastime or occupation; the draw of mysticism and the subtle line between belief and cynicism; and the trust that we place in others through relationships.
Being a multi-tasker myself when it comes to hobbies and occupations, I often envy those who can dedicate themselves to one particular pursuit. They achieve a level of immersion and eventual expertise that unavoidably places the 'amateur' label on others less devoted. Morris exemplifies this very well in the character of Carol, yet her very way of life is under threat as the problem with her hands begins to marginalise Carol from her own society.
The overt chicanery of the hypnotist Anthony Morrish contrasts well with Carol's therapeutic experiences of Gene, and the other-worldly setting of Vellonoweth adds sinister elements reminiscent of The League of Gentlemen and The Prisoner. This balance between intrigue, mild terror and charlatanism is perfectly maintained throughout.
Carol's friendship with Jerry is a cornerstone of her life. The Gene thing is dysfunctional but Carol clearly yearns for that excitement. Both she and Gene are pretty screwed up compared to 'normal' people. She's very reluctant to give herself, he's an enigma and the whole thing goes on above a buried nuclear power station.
Metaphors abound in this story. The reader is regularly invited to take things on face value, push them away as fake or adopt a Zen approach to the Andreq future life and Vellonoweth shenanigans.
Morris presents the whole like a crossroads where each and any direction can make sense. My Memories of a Future Life is a wondrous book.
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