Thursday, August 17, 2006

Novel Gazing

In case you hadn't noticed, the Booker longlist is out and the media have begun their febrile speculation as to who will win the prize. (They never do that with the Forward shortlist, now, do they?) The BBC upholds journalistic standards by reporting on the bookies' odds rather more than the books, but The Guardian and The Times have made a better job of it.
James Robertson is on the list with The Testament of Gideon Mack. I finished reading it a week or two ago. The writing is a joy: fluid, gripping and witty; beautifully tuned and paced. As I noted in this post, there is a strong link with James Hogg's Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, which is acknowledged in various ways. However, the narrative arc of Gideon Mack is different to that of Hogg's masterpiece and its structure more complex and multi-layered. The Scotland of Gideon Mack is a changed and changing creature, as uncertain of itself and as unreliable a narrator of its history as the central character. Like Hogg, James Robertson leaves the reader with more questions than answers, which is often what Scotland does to any of us who have thoughts about its present and future.

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