7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
A moving read with some powerful themes,
This review is from: Eleven (Paperback)Xavier Ireland is an Australian living in London who has a popular late night radio phone-in show where people share their problems. For all the calm advice he doles out though, Xavier harbours a secret tragedy, one that he's come half way around the world to escape. As he works on putting his life back together, one innocuous decision sets off a chain of events that affects not only Xavier's life, but also the lives of 10 strangers, to dramatic effect.
One of Britain's best comedians, Mark Watson has written a sensitive and moving story about strangers brought together by random circumstance. Xavier's a complicated character, haunted by one mistake that cost him everything. Half of the story turns on slowly unveiling what that event is but for me, the pay off was a bit of an anti-climax - the event itself so small that it was difficult to believe the consequences and while that's perhaps partly the point of it, it nevertheless remained a bum note in an otherwise good book.
The other half of the story draws on the unveiling of the events connecting the eleven characters and this worked really well. While Xavier anchors the action, the novel is studded with a host of characters, any of whom could be one of the eleven. Of these, Xavier's radio sidekick, the ever-optimistic Murray is deftly portrayed - a sad sack with a stutter he's ambitious but knows that without Xavier he'll never have a shot while Pippa, a Geordie and former athlete who now works as a cleaner is an interesting counterfoil to Xavier and the development of their relationship holds the interest.
The themes of regret, guilt and second chances are powerfully drawn and there were some very moving moments - particularly with the story of Julius, an overweight boy on a council estate who's picked on for his looks by his classmates and driven to desperate measures. There are some funny lines that stop it descending into misery, but this isn't a comedic novel and I enjoyed it for that.
While the central conceit could have become hackneyed in the hands of a less skilled writer, Watson never allows it to and there are enough surprises within the plot to keep it interesting. While this isn't a perfect read, it is nevertheless a good one and I definitely suggest checking it out.