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This review is from: Taking Leave (Paperback)
Taking Leave, by Roger Hubank
At points the inability to express, to speak out the unthinkable makes itself felt in the very words Roger Hubank has used to portray Anthony Hardman. Estranged from his wife, bitter to the core about his job at university he retreats to Moor House, a solitary building sitting high up in a side valley of the Peak District. Here he tries to come to terms with what at the beginning seems to be nothing else than yet another middle-aged existence feeling the urge of crisis. And yet, the vision of the aging climber, remembering youthful forays into the hills with nothing to burden the playful mind, roaming the gritstone edges of Derbyshire feels utterly authentic from a reader's point of view. Hardman's outlook on life is bitter indeed, as is the intercourse between him and his wife Liz. But instead of presenting the protagonist as simply day hunting dreams that should have been lived years ago, we see Hardman plunging into realities of life around him in his country retreat that are far more complex than a climbing route would ever be. He steadily immerses himself in his rural habitat and the less he thinks about all the routes not done, about all the choices of life having let gone unseized, the more the reader gains entry into who Anthony Hardman really is. Hubank has managed well to sketch his characters displaying personal involvement in what has shaped - and indeed is still shaping their lives. So we see them bearing and breaking under traumatisingly honest hardships of real life as well as finally conceding that all a human being can do in the light of real tragedy is to go with the flow, wherever that may wash up. Whether it is meanwhile possible to rescue at least some shreds of what Hardman believed to be constituent for his own life remains to be found out until almost the very end. Therefore Taking Leave is by far more than a novel based on a climbing background. Calling it an attempt to grasp and describe the fleeting moment in which life's turns decide over whole biographies seems more appropriate. And in trying to write about this, Hubank has been very successful, even if it feels difficult at times to understand Anthony Hardman. However, for those who do not seek simple answers or clichés Taking Leave is certainly recommended.