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Entertaining Strangers (Salt Modern Fiction)
Entertaining Strangers (Salt Modern Fiction)
by Jonathan Taylor
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.84

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Literary Work of Art, 22 Dec 2012
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Taylor's literary novel is as vivid as it is enthralling. The poetic prose depicts an unlikely beauty through the bleakness of the novel's setting. The sense of place (namely, the dilapidated and chaotic home of Edwin Prince and his New-Age-Gothic landlady), rings true. Taylor captures a fascinating array of social misfits; each one comic, charming, yet paradoxically, isolated by their own pain and living on the fringes of society.

The main protagonist: the homeless Jules, whose disturbing past cleverly haunts the text throughout, is drawn irrevocably to the eccentric Edwin. She is essentially a tragic character, for whom there seems to be little hope: reliant, as she is, upon the aforementioned who is self-obsessed and stuck between two worlds: the intellectual and the everyday.

Despite Edwin's attempts at escapism via his obsession and study of ants and through the grandiosity of his own intellect; the banality and baseness of his everyday life encroaches, creating a juxtaposition that adds to the novel's vividity, poignance and humour.

It is also a novel that presents a world of inversions: where success means avoidance; where misery is happiness; where 'Spring is the new Winter'. Yet still the characters make attempts to escape their situation. This push and pull of the positive and negative is echoed through the unusual theme of music: major and minor; happy and sad; concordant and discordant, to which the characters are fascinatingly drawn and repelled by, according to their fears, their beliefs and their emotions.

Incorporating an eclectic mix of intertextuality, this novel has strong philosophical undertones running parallel to the plot, yet it still attains the important balance between complexity and accessibility. Littered with comic irony and hilarious one-liners, this novel is full of 'Entertaining Strangers'. Highly recommended.

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