Reading “Delivering Virtue” can probably best be described as an “experience”. What begins as a genuinely amusing and light-hearted read starts to change tone as it progresses, into something potentially much darker and more macabre. The real star of this book is Brian Kindall himself. He is, quite simply, a tremendous writer – and a fantastic wordsmith – with prose which flows like poetry; the language he uses throughout feels authentically frontier, is genuinely quite stunning, and his words are a delight to read. His imagination, however, sometimes not so.
It is, in some ways, a road tale, simple in premise, about a chancing courier in frontier-era America, who is hired to transport a baby, destined for marriage, to her Mormon suitor. Of course, this in itself should tap a few warning bells, but I was far from expecting the turn the book took. As Didier Rain and his unusual caravan of Virtue, a couple of horses and a goat, find themselves in ever-more bizarre and distasteful situations, I did start to genuinely fear where this book was going to lead me.
Despite the simple storyline, Kindall does more than enough to infuse a real air of mystery, as the strange events increasingly hint at miracles of a mystical nature. You find yourself equally engaged by the enigma that is Virtue, as by the continually emerging dark side of Rain’s nature. He is an arguably despicable character – a self-interested anti-hero - with a disturbing backstory which emerges to reveal more about his deviant behaviour; throughout, there is an undertone to “Delivering Virtue”, which could become either benign or malign – I found myself opining the latter. The situations they find themselves in are perhaps equally dark – so much so that the book actually becomes quite unpleasant to read a times. The clever, highbrow humour – which sets its own pace, allowing you a moment to catch it up – starts to dissipate, as you gradually turn against Rain.
Virtue’s confusingly and bizarrely rapid ageing is a huge hint at the degree of metaphor in this book, which you start to suspect from very early on. When the reveal of Virtue’s truth finally does come, it is in some ways too brief, but in a way does satisfyingly trim away the confusion – however, I did feel it could be quite easy to miss, if not reading on the author’s wavelength. This book’s genre is perhaps the biggest mystery of all, though I am not by any means saying that is a bad thing.
None of this subjective perception by the reader can take away from the brilliance of Brian Kindall’s pen – he is simply excellent, never once slipping from his first-person character, and the book is written and crafted to perfection. Had “Delivering Virtue” been written by another author, I’m not sure it would have worked at all, but Kindall’s quality alone was more than enough to make it very entertaining, and I flew through it in a day – just be prepared for what kind of book is ahead (I rarely read the blurb before picking up an ARC – perhaps, in this case, I should have). The tale itself may have left me a little non-plussed (and I won’t mention the goat), but the quality of this writer is undeniable.
In : Book Reviews
Tags: series brian-kindall western comedy surreal bizarre frontier fiction american-history