Paul Torday has become one of my favourite authors over the last few years, always writing fiction that is thought provoking and intelligent as well as entertaining. In this new novella he tells the story of Robert Wansbeck MP ("Bobby"). Bobby is currently staying in a hotel that he remembers from a previous visit long ago. He has been ill after a scandal involving expenses claims and is looking to relax.
At first, everything seems fine. The room is comfortable and, when he returns to it, is always freshly made up. He intends to spend the time writing his memoirs. Although never high in power, he sees himself as a foot soldier - a man who made local things happen for his constituents. Yet, every time he puts pen to paper, the words seem to disappear. This is the hotel Deja vu and whenever Bobby comes downstairs, there are echoes of things he feels he has seen before. Who is the woman and the small boy he sees leaving the restaurant? Why is there nobody in the shop to serve him? Things seem out of touch, out of reach. Is Bobby really the man of integrity he believes he is and how far has the shadow of his father affected his life?
This is a very touching piece of fiction about a middle aged man who has built up a life which is crashing around him, as his career and marriage slip from his grasp. I love the way the news of the expenses scandal hitting the newspapers reminded him of past school reports and being called in to discuss it by his party was like going to see the Headmaster at school... The story is set in both the past and the present and is brought together beautifully. Absolutely excellent and it is followed by a preview of Mr Torday's new novel, out next year, The Legacy of Hartlepool Hall
. I have it on pre-order and look forward to reading it immensely.