The first chapter of a Perfectly Good Man is pretty stunning as a young man commits suicide "on camera" and my first impression was that this was really going to be something. As he dies he is attended to by a late middle-aged priest Barnaby Johnson, who turns out to be the perfectly good man of the ambiguous title.
The story of Barnaby's life from age 8 to the immediate aftermath of the suicide is told in chapters which jump between acquaintances and members of his family at different times (characterised by their ages). As things are told from the varying viewpoints, the author gradually weaves together a plot which slowly builds to a satisfying conclusion… Read more
Quartet is yet another take on one of the oldest stories in the book "we've got to get the old band back together to save the school/orphanage/whatever". In this case the establishment in question is a retirement home for ageing musicians so they are less on a mission from God and more on a mission on their way to God.
Its all perfectly amiable stuff with a stellar cast, many of whom turn in excellent performances. Pauline Collins is delightful and touching as the Altzheimers stricken Cissy, and Tom Courtenay is as ever compulsively watchable. If Michael Gambon and Maggie Smith turn in rather off the shelf performances (with Gambon turning into Dumbledore at one point),… Read more
The Songlines is part Australian travelogue, part account of the aboriginal (although the book eventually discounts that word) songlines, part personal philosophy, part evolutionary psychology.
The date of publication, 1987, comes as a bit of a surprise, as the book has a bit of a 70s feel to it, middle class englishman rejects the trappings of modern life and goes off to find his truth in more "primitive" societies. Then again it could, although the author is older, be seen as part of the more recent gap year culture. Whatever it is, I couldn't help being reminded of Marcus Brigstocke's Giles Webbley Hogg, with the emotionally blind Englishman totally misreading the… Read more