“When Helen saw a movie in which the happy ending was that the super-intelligent working-class girl received the letter telling her she’d been accepted for the swanky academy, she always wondered whether that really was a happy ending. The likely outcome of the girl getting her education would be that in the future even if she loved her parents dearly she wouldn’t be able to stop herself being bored and petulant with them and though she struggled against it she wouldn’t be able to resist finding her home town tedious, tiny and peculiar.”
Alexei Sayle, The Weeping Women Hotel, pp. 147-8.Finished this while on the plane out to Malaga, and as those who replied to my thoughts on Sayle’s Overtaken advised, it’s really rather special.
A strange and vivid opening chapter in the first person sees a battered, shell-shocked woman escaping something terrible. We then backtrack to follow the story of fat, ugly Harriet as she tries to change her life while her pretty, mean sister Helen finds her own unravelling. Right up until the end, we’re not sure which sister it is who’s headed for the opening chapter.
It’s funny and sharp and moving throughout, with brilliant observations and turns of phrase. Sayle throws in so many details and oddments that though the final section is him merely knocking down the pins he’s already set up, you still can’t guess which way things will turn.
He’s savage about Martin Amis’s dancing, and what Neo from the Matrix must be like as a neighbour. There’s a nice line on psychiatrists all being screwy themselves, but not sectioning each other out of professional courtesy. I kept interrupting the Dr’s own much more pious reading to point out particularly choice bits.
We care about Harriet in a way I didn’t feel for Overtaken’s Kelvin. As a result it’s a much more absorbing and satisfying novel. Am sitting on my hands to not spoil it any further. But look you, read the bloody thing.
In other news: the Dr came to a momentous decision yesterday which I’ll speak more of in about a month. I’ve spent the day busy editing things which are yet to be announced, and reintroducing myself to the gym.
Read something I wrote about The Great Escape, and this deluded fellow thinks I’m a hero for services rendered half a lifetime ago. And not, as it happens, by me.