Bittersweet and poignant, this bleak tragi-comic
drama is all the better for its ambiguity.
It is an intelligent book which credits its audience with comparable
intelligence, and allows them to fill the detail gaps (which may be the reason
for the title); although Isaac is a pretty unpleasant character, he is also a very
complex and somewhat sad one – worse still, we can all relate to him in some
Johnston is a wonderful writer, deep and
suggestive, and he has done a tremendous job of crafting the multi-layered
anti-hero of this piece: an angry and disappointed young university drop-out, with
arguably some indication of a personality disorder, who seems to go out of his
way to offend and antagonize everyone he meets, never realizing that, despite
their collective opinion of his flaws, it is he who is the problem, not
them. By the end, without intending to
spoil in any way, you do wonder if the disagreeability in him is that much beyond
his control, or by design. Told as pure
slice of life, this book is pretty much a collection of scenes or vignettes of
his interactions with people. And, in
the same contrite style as Isaac’s crafting, there is simultaneously condemnation
of and a love letter to Edinburgh; you really do get a sense of the appeal of
this richly cultured city, whilst also sensing a lack of opportunities and hope
for the millennial generation. There are
reasons why Isaac is embittered, but all of his peers share his frustration to
some extent; as the reader, we sense this too.
There is a perpetual sense of gloom – pretty much all of them,
regardless of whatever various things they’ve got going on in their lives.
I enjoyed this book, and I think you will
too. It is entertaining drama and, despite
his faults, you do find yourself hoping that Isaac will manage to get his act
together – after all, we all know someone like him. Andrew Johnston is a smart, good quality
author, and he deserves to be treated with the same respect with which he
treats his reader. A fine read.
In : Book Reviews