Top positive review
Coming-of-Age novel in a great style
on 3 June 2015
I really enjoyed this book. I got it as a free read via my Prime account, but I will purchase it next time I want to read it so I have it always.
I loved the style of this book. It reminded me of other coming-of-age stuff such as Keith Waterhouse's "Billy Liar" character or Francoise Sagan's "Cecile".
I actually liked the character, despite his faults, and who of us have no faults or foibles? We first meet him as a 16-year-old boy, obsessed with obtaining sexual experience, who is rather neglected by his alcoholic mother. It's not much wonder he lives in his head so much. However, he does love his great-great-aunt Ernestine, who he reveals provided much of his upbringing. He is closest to her, out of all his assorted slightly-mad relatives. In fact, he cares so much for her that he not infrequently gets up in the middle of the night and drives or takes a cab to her house, when he has fears that something bad has happened to her and she may need him (she is very elderly and lives alone). He is really cut up about her death and doesn't just forget her and move on.
He has, in my opinion, other redeeming features. He loves his cat, Mimi, having endless patience for her and not punishing her for cat-like activities such as knocking vases over and toileting accidents. Throughout the book, he never actually does anyone a bad turn. In fact, he puts up with quite a lot of nonsense himself from assorted relatives, friends and girlfriends.
Even his faults could be construed as simply insecurity and lack of guidance, in no small part, I'm sure, due to his upbringing. He seems to have become rather over-reliant on self-help literature. However, he takes every experience he has as an opportunity to learn something about himself and the world and he makes "notes to self" to add to his ever-growing collection of self-knowledge.
Eventually, he starts to settle into a lifestyle groove, slowly realising that his fantasies of power and ability to impress others will remain just fantasies. Instead, he settles down into his job as a cabby and earns his living, so he is no longer depending on relatives. He realises his proposed degree in Art History, which he only began out of sheer apathy in the first place, will get him nowhere he wanted to go anyway. Ironically, it's when he gives up trying to be or do something amazing, that something quite exciting (albeit not earth-shattering) does in fact happen to him through a combination of happenstance and pushing from his latest girlfriend.
There is a strong thread of cynicism and black humour running through the novel which stops it being maudlin or self-pitying.
All in all, I really enjoyed this book. I haven't read any of Glavnic's work before, but would be keen to try more after this.