Friday, January 29, 2010

War Damage - Elizabeth Wilson

Burns night supper went down well and somehow the end of the week has come around again (amazing how it does that week after week). I seem to have spent almost every moment not at work washing up, a state of affairs not helped by a Burns inspired rediscovery of porridge – tasty but sticks like glue. Tonight I’m ignoring the domestic nonsense in favour of books and a bath.

War Damage’ appeared in the post a couple of weeks ago (unsolicited and unexpected which was exciting) it came without any explanation in an envelope from Profile but is published under serpents tale – an imprint I associate with books well outside my niche. However the blurb was intriguing rather than off putting so I thought I’d give it a go; not least because I scarcely ever read contemporary fiction so I thought I ought to have a look at what I was missing.

The first page details a schoolboy fumble on the art room sofa in terms which regrettably leave little to the imagination – regrettable in that the description is laughable – it wasn’t just me who laughed either, I tried it out on the blonde and she was in stitches too. Fortunately early fears that this is how the book meant to go on weren’t realised – it got much better, but it hasn’t really convinced me that contemporary is the way to go.

What this book sets out to be, should be, and almost manages to be, is a stylish noir thriller set against the back drop of post war London. It does manage to be an engaging page turner that just about managed to keep me guessing until the end. Wilson clearly did her research – which is one of my problems with books like this; too much of the research ends up on the page, details which distract me from the flow of the narrative because they jar. Here it was too many references to changes in the law, and to Anthony Blunt – it just didn’t feel natural (and I’m something of a Blunt fan).

I think it would have been a better book if a little bit less had been going on – the collision of bohemian Hampstead, a seedier gay underworld, fascists, Irish nationalists, randy schoolboys, corrupt labour politicians, wronged women, femme fatal’s, stolen Jade necklace’s, and bored housewives is a lot to take in. Complaints aside I did enjoy this – the best bits where very good – the lingering threat of fascism is brilliantly played, as are the dangers and thrills of being homosexual in the forties, and the sense of threat in an old fashioned London pea souper. I look forward to Wilson’s next book – which I will certainly read even if I have to pay for it.

1 comment:

  1. I quite like the sound of that! It sounds like a book you could just get lost in for a bit.

    I once left a bowl of oatmeal in the sink overnight. Needless to say, I've never repeated that mistake.