Fiction & Biography 7 - ,



The Resurrectionists (Phoenix House 5:12.99) 0...

It’s a pretty rare occurrence these days to find a novelist able to pull off the trick of making a book work successfully on two levels. Judging by The Resurrectionists, Michael Collins is just such an author.

The writer was born and raised in Ireland but spends much of his time now in America, a country whose dark underbelly he describes with searing insight and a certain kind of visceral black humour. His last novel, The Keepers Of Truth, was set in smalltown 19705 USA and garnered a Booker Prize nomination. The Resurrectionists delves into the same kind of desolate territory within a similar time frame, and it would be no surprise if it gained a similar accolade.

With the action set in the freezing winter months of a remote backwater town in Copper County, Michigan, the tale’s narrator and hero after a fashion is Frank Cassidy. The story starts when Frank reads of the murder of his adopted father (in fact, his uncle it quickly transpires), and heads back to the town of his upbringing in search of answers.

In tow are Frank’s wife, Honey, and two sons, with all four central characters having already been through life’s wringer. Indeed, just about everyone in The Resurrectionists comes with some kind of emotional baggage attached, and the theme of the past coming back to haunt the present is one of the main threads throughout this exceptional tale.

So there’s a murder and no small amount of mystery, and on that basic level The Resurrectionists is a beautifully constructed piece of writing. Suspense is built subtly and almost imperceptibly, but gradually mounts to near painful levels, as one character then another and then another again is implicated in the murder as well as any number of other crimes and personal betrayals going on.

But this book is much more than a murder mystery. Using Frank’s narration superbly, Collins examines the inherent problems of memory, identity and psychiatry, raising interesting questions about the relationship between the conscious and subconscious minds. Due to a certain childhood trauma central to the plot, Frank has had run-ins with shrinks in the past, including a spell institutionalised in a mental ward, and his own uncertainty as to his state of mind is pivotal.


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I know something you don't know. And I'm not going to tell. I'm Just


Bleak one minute, uplifting the next

Throughout The Resurrectionists, Collins also displays a wonderful ear for natural dialogue and a keen eye for the ludicrous nature of everyday life, as well as skilfully highlighting the importance of what isn’t said as much as what is. But no matter how desolate things get and they get pretty bleak The Resurrectionists is ultimately a positive story.

There is always the possibility of salvation, of forgiveness for past crimes, lingering in the background, and a kind of begrudging positivity ultimately shines through. As Honey says to her husband at one point: ‘Think of life as a terminal illness, Frank, and then every day you survive is a blessing’. (Doug Johnstone)

wreck. Which is all rather odd. since Sinead is not even dead. That's not

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Lazy and badly executed



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geing to remind you every few minutes that I know a secret. It's a really cool seciet. You really want to know. But I'm not going to tell. Is this annoying. childish and reminiscent of your little sister? Yes. Is it the stuff of great literature? Sadly. Maggie O'Farrell seems to think so.

Lily meets Marcus at an art gallery and overhears him saying he needs a new flatmate. He is devastatineg

attractive and she lives With her mum.

so she does the natural thing in the circumstances: decides to move in With a complete stranger. Only this stranger has a dark secret yes. one that I'm not going to tell you »- and soon Lily starts seeing what appears to be the ghost of Marcus' ex» girlfriend Sincad.

This ‘ghost' pops up all over the place. even ‘v‘Jithllllltl them having sex. and I My becomes a nervous

the secret by the way. and infuriatingly. Sinead's ghostly presence is never explained.

Suspense created when everyone knows what is going on apart from you is not big and it's not clever. Nothing happens while we wait to find out the secret and we are given no indication of why Lily finds Marcus so attractive. who these people ar >. or vhy we should care.

The overriding impression of My Love/"s Lover is one of Ia/iness. One feels O'Farrell could do a lot better. but really can't be bothered; can't be bothered to develop characters. evoke emotions or produce more exciting sentences than 'It begins to dri//le and lily realises she’s forgotten her umbrella". And the only plot device

the seciet is poorly executed and. once revealed, deeply disappointing. iAnna Shipmani

Shelf life

Class/c novels revisited. This issue: The Outsider

Published 60 years ago. What’s the story The Outsrder (LEI/anger) was the first novel by l-‘rench—Algerian writer and eXistentiaIist philosopher Albert Camus. Set in Algiers. it tells of an ordinary clerk. Meursault. who commits murder for no real reason other than being blinded by the Sun. and is ultimately conVicted and sentenced to death. What is shocking to lvleursault's somety is not the murder itself, but his insensitive reaction to it. as well as his lack of regret at his mother's death. Meursault narrates the grave events in a dispassionate. informal manner. frankly disclosing his reference for sensual pleasuies and his indifference to social niceties.

What the critics said ‘Cainus could never cease to be one of the prinCipal forces in our cultural domain', raved fellow writer and philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre who met Camus for the first time in the year folloWing The Outsiders publication.

Key moment In the pivotai chapter leading up to the murder. Camus skilfully builds the sense of impending disaster from the point when the group of Arab men are seen gathered menaCingly at a bt s stop in the morning. to the struggle and shooting on the beach. lvleursault describes his feeling followmg the murder as being like 'knocking four times on the door of unhappiness.

Postscript The classic Cure single 'Killing An Arab' was inspired by the scene On the beach.

First line test 'Mother died today'. (Allan Radcliffe)

Albert Camus L’étranger

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