Admiral Horatio Nelson has remained one of the enduring heroes of English nationalism. Perched atop Nelson's column in London, the Admiral has been rattled on his pedestal with Tom Pocock's revelations in Nelson's Women
. However, Barry Unsworth's devastating novel Losing Nelson
takes the interrogation of the Admiral even further, in this dark, gripping study of the dark side of heroism and hero worship.
In the basement of his large anonymous North London house, Charles Cleasby obsessively re-enacts every manoeuvre of every single military engagement undertaken by his hero and "bright angel", Admiral Nelson. Cleasby's fervent admiration of the Admiral extends upstairs to his life's work, a biography of the great man. Cleasby's only assistant in his heroic struggle with Nelson is Miss Lily, a hired secretary paid by the hour, who carefully transcribes Cleasby's painstaking attempts to rescue Nelson's name from unpatriotic, academic cynics. Yet Cleasby's passion soon reveals a darker side, as he declares that he is in fact Nelson's "dark twin", sharing with the Admiral a parental bereavement at the same age. This, alongside the brutality of his emotionally crippled father, throws Cleasby into an agoraphobic tangent to everyday reality. His only solace is his growing attachment to Miss Lily, and the ongoing struggling with his bright angel, as the novel slowly and deliberately builds to its shocking climax.
Losing Nelson confirms the Booker prize-winning Unsworth as one of the most elegant but understated novelists currently writing. The historical grasp of Nelson is outstanding, but where the novel really excels, and also profoundly disturbs, is in its exploration of the tarnished angels of patriotism and heroism. This is an absorbing, troubling novel. --Jerry Brotton
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Barry Unsworth jointly won the 1992 Booker Prize with his novel SACRED HUNGER. He was also shortlisted for the Booker prize on two further occaisions for PASCALI'S ISLAND and MORALITY PLAY.
Originally from a mining village in Durham, he now lives in Italy. Barry Unsworth is currently the Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at John Moore's University in Liverpool.