Top critical review
on 23 July 2009
Despite its fascinating setting - both geographical and historical - The Catastrophist manages to be tediously introspective, wallowing in the boring lovesickness of its lacklustre protagonist.
Set during the independence of Congo, the main character and narrator is James Gillespie, a journalist who is in Congo in pursuit of a woman. He tries to remain detached from the politics, whilst the object of his affections is a fervent supporter of politician Patrice Lumumba. Eventually Gillespie is dragged into the drama surrouning Lumumba's removal from power in a military coup, and eventual capture and death.
With such a strong historical story as a backdrop, it is quite a feat that the author managed to produce such an uninvolving book. Even the scenes of horror are told through Gillespie's self-centred eyes, leaving the reader cold. I'd looked forward to reading a book with real emotional depth, but was left skimming pages and desperate for it to end.
If you like heavily introspective fiction, full of soul searching and self-flagellation, you will like this novel. If you don't, you won't find much else to like.