FUTURISTIC COMEDY TERRY PRATCHETT The Thief Of Time (Doubleday €16.99) 0...
LITERARY FICTION SEBASTIAN FAULKS
On Green Dolphin Street (Hutchinson £16.99) 0..
ebastian Faulks is something
of a publisher’s and awards
judging panel’s wet dream. A fiction writer preoccupied with that old literary chestnut ‘the past’, his work to date has largely embraced the statutory criteria by which ‘quality’ fiction is measured by pundits like Mariella Frostrup, Tim Rice and that newsreader from GMTV.
Indeed, Faulks’ famous war trilogy, comprising The Girl At the Lion D’Or, Birdsong and Charlotte Gray is a veritable checklist of such ‘quality’ elements: erotic love affairs spanning several decades, individuals’ responses to social upheaval, a detailed evocation of war’s carnage et cetera. Since his 1991 debut, Faulks has been richly rewarded for sticking to his worthy formula, earning limitless acclaim and a list of kudos that includes the British Book Awards Book Of The Year (for Birdsong) as well as a
nomination for 1999’s Bad Sex In Fiction award (a bit of an outside chance this one, as Faulks found himself up against the literary muscle of surreal TV gardener and Mr MacGregor author Alan Titchmarsh).
On Green Dolphin Street has been hyped as something of a departure for Faulks, though, in terms of its historical context, the novel’s action follows on sequentially from World War lI/Resistance
drama Charlotte Gray, being set in
Washington and London at the Cold War’s U“ "11w" height. Equally familiar is Faulks’ creation of a female protagonist imbued with ambivalent morality; in this case Mary van der Linden, the ex-pat wife of a British
The book’s laborious first third charts Mary’s banal day—to-day activity: choosing which clothes to wear for sightseeing and shopping in New York, fretting over her dinner-party table plan and such. Faulks gradually reveals the fragility of her idyllic home life as well as a morbid, neurotic side to her character; Mary’s obsession with death’s power to rupture her bourgeois existence pervades the novel. Though, it is
Another gigglesome mirror reﬂected on Discworld
106 THE LIST 26 Apr—10 May 2001
Flabby excesses let Sebastian Faulks down
Mary herself who briefly threatens this stability when she enters into an affair with a charismatic journalist, her ability to face up to death is brutally tested when first her mother and then her husband, Charles, are
Faulks’ Mary is a memorable creation; complex, flawed yet ultimately, sympathetic and the author never allows his historical backdrop - McCarthy,
, Kruschev, Kennedy - to distract from her unfolding
Paradoxes are what Terry Pratchett does best. and the bigger they are. the better. These. he accentuz-ites by transferring them from marginally inconSIstent events and institutions in real life to his logically paradoXIcaI arena of Discworld. Yet paradox has often been Pratchett's downfall as he has tried to Insert it into situations where it simply doesn't fit. all in the aid of getting a laugh but resulting merely In irritating the pants off his more perceptive readers.
Not that The Thief Of Time has any such problem. Time might bean Illusion and. at least according to DOuglas Adams. lunchtime doubly so. but as such it Is a reliable tount for genuinely interesting dilemmas. As Is religion. So. Wllll a grey host of ethereal Auditors threatening to stop time dead — and the only possible heroes in sight; a Zen-like monk by the name of Lu-Tse and Death's granddaughter. Susan — Pratchett has
story. Yet, the book requires significant editing, particularly in the opening sequences, and an army of sub-editors should have been drafted in to help reign in Faulks’ tendency for overwriting and repetition. There are only so many descriptions of Charles’ clammy upper lip or of Mary washing her breasts and between her legs that can be endured without provoking intense apathy.
All told, On Green Dolphin Street doesn’t quite condemn Faulks to the ranks of the culturally overrated (currently inhabited by the likes of Coldplay, Davina McCall and The Roy/e Family), though his flabbier excesses do find him poised at the entrance.
set himself up for a classic romp around Discworld in general, and Ankh-Morpork in particular.
Which is exactly what he produces. It might not contain all the laugh-out- Ioud qualities of the preVIous 25 Discworld novels. but the humour level is consistently high enough to please his fans and. possibly. to garner a few new converts.
Susan and Lu-Tse are full and satisfying characters. Death has his day. In full block capitals OF COURSE. as do the horsemen of the apocalypse. a manic clock-maker and a light- fingered nowciate monk. And while Pratchett weaves together another gigglesome mirror With which to reflect our own parado><ical times. he also manages to prowde a few clues to the possible solution of one particularly intranSIgent problem: why a box of premium grade SWISS chocolates is as addictive and difficult to put down as one of his novels. IThom Dibdini
Fiction & Biography
Putting debut novelists under the microscope
Who she? At the tender age of 30. Chelsea based Shamim Sarif Is alread\ a onewoman entertainment Industry Her screenplays The Reader and the v. or/d t/i’lSCtPl) have both been optioned by Hollywood and her directorial debut Will be screened in competition at Cannes this year. The critical acclaim bestowed upon Sarit‘s published short stories has led to her being Identified as one of the most promising of a new generation of Black British writers
Her debut Set :n the léliios on the sun baked South African Cape. the world unseen focuses on the developing friendship between two seemingly disparate women Miiiam Is a conventional Indian housewife and mother, resigned to the loneliness of married life. When she meets the unorthodOX Amina, who has been ostracised by the Indian community for drIVIng a taXI and geing Into busIness With a black man, Miriam begins questioning her own traditional values. Basically . . . Sarif's debut is confident. original and Jam-packed With insight into a hitherto marginalised soCIety. Despite the familiarity of the central relationship. Sarif skilfully handles her themes of freedom and oppression. drawing a parallel between South Africa's Indians and the UK'S own Assian communities.
First line test ‘Even lying on the roof, With only the cheap slates in her line of VISIon, she c0u|d tell that it was a police car.‘
I the world unseen Is published by The
Women '3 Press priced E9. 99.