5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Beautfully written by an unreliable narrator,
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This review is from: All the materials for a midnight feast, or Zagira (Paperback)
Gary Dexter's debut full length novel is a first-person acount of - well we can't be absolutely sure. Ostensibly we have a straightforward frame made up of our hero's coach-trip to an anti-nuclear demonstration in Glasgow and its aftermath. During this he composes for our benefit an account of his truncated university career in Hull twenty-five years earlier. The novel is full of good things, most of all Dexter's luminous prose which he uses to explore the most precisely delineated emotions of confusion, embarrassment, retrospection and imperfect self-knowledge. There are some wonderfully comical effects, several having to do with a running joke about unsatisfactory meetings with the celebrated poet, Philip Larkin, also Hull University's Librarian. But there are also telling observations of fashions among female activists in that era and our own; as well as vignettes of student digs and parties, mini-cab drivers and fumbles between men and women. The progression of the novel serves to undermine much of what our narrator initially tells us, though - and this is where I might cavil - we are never put in the way of a definitive exposition of our hero's condition; merely that he is evidently as mad as a rat. Nor is it one hundred percent clear why we should care, though the novel's final words suggest that Dexter's theme has been love and its disappointments. But by now our own dissapointment with our hero has dissipated any identification with his claim upon love: simply by serving his purpose as Dexter's unreliable narrator, he has been revealed as too flakey to command our sympathy. Read this book for the excellence of the writing and the humour; then wait for Dexter's next as he develops his grip on the congruence between moral thrust, theme, character and plot.