"Maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow, maybe one of these days soon, when the world is quiet again, you might understand what it is you need to understand. But really, you know you never will. And you'll be baffled until the day you die. And even then you might never find out. You're like an ant crawling over a manuscript. You aren't even aware the words are there, let alone able to read them."
This is the Life is an ode to a dead brother - based a real one, as detailed in the epilogue: The origins of This is the Life.
Louis, the brother, is not an easy man to live with and never was, not from childhood; a man gifted with many talents, but lacking the most important one: how to cope with life. His less talented but more capable brother, who has always had to pick up the pieces left in Louis wake, flies to Australia to care for Louis, who is dying from a brain tumour. He finds a man living in a self-created chaos of bad choices and ruined relationships, filth, vermin and non-functioning white goods. In the midst of the mess he has made of his life, Louis remains exasperating, maddening, still loveable.
It's a heartbreaking tale. It's not an easy read, but it is beautifully written. The dirty, dreary everyday misery is interspersed with quiet musings on the pointlessness of life and death and dying. Expect to be depressed, but also enchanted.
"Louis, my brother, always went places first, being older. And then, after a time, I would follow. I expect he'll still be wearing the beanie hat. He'll probably say, 'What kept you?' One of us will know what to do.