18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
The search for coherency,
This review is from: Turbulence (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I'm not going to repeat the plot since that is adequately covered by other reviewers and the Amazon blurb, and, anyway, this isn't a plot heavy novel. Intelligent and thoughtful, at heart this is a meditation on the impossible search for coherency and an overwhelming meaning and stability in life.
The narrator, Henry Meadows, is a young Cambridge academic caught up in the war effort and the attempt to predict the weather to facilitate the D-day landings. He believes in a formula which can neutralise the unexpected, the arbitrary messiness of real life, but learns that it is only the unpredictable which is predictable.
I'd never read any Foden before, and was impressed with his ability to convey character and the nuances of personality through his narrator's voice. Meadows is awkward, intellectually intelligent and yet somewhat socially inept, and seems to fit the period perfectly.
The research is also extremely impressive. Foden walks the tight-rope of conveying the intricacies and impossibilities of high-level maths/physics, without alienating the reader. In fact the way we (most of us, I would guess) cannot engage with the maths is itself important, conveying the impenetrability of the problem and, by association, telling us something about Meadows himself.
But if the atmosphere, register and tone of the book is flawless, sadly the novel as a whole isn't. While this is quietly compelling it lacks that certain something which turns a good novel into a great one. Perhaps it's that the characters aren't quite gripping enough, or that the scenario is ever so slightly artificial, an attempt to write up the importance of Meadows' work? I'm not sure, but while I enjoyed this book greatly, I could easily have stopped reading at any point without having a compelling need to finish it.
So overall a fine work with some excellent writing. But it didn't make me desperate to read the Foden back catalogue.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 5 Jun 2009 09:50:24 BDT
Ryan Williams says:
Bullseye. But The Last King of Scotland is worth a read.
In reply to an earlier post on 5 Jun 2009 17:57:45 BDT
Roman Clodia says:
Thanks! I've picked up The Last King numerous times in the bookshop but something has always held me back from reading it - maybe I'll give it a try now.
In reply to an earlier post on 3 May 2010 15:38:37 BDT
Gary B says:
Definitely read The Last King of Scotland. Mimi and Toutou Go Forth is also excellent but non-fiction.
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