The Scheme for Full Employment Paperback – 15 Mar 2004
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'A British writer to be treasured' Independent on Sunday
'Mills's odd but wonderful books combine the language of a children's story and the strange dry humour of Harold Pinter… This is a writer [whose] apparent simplicity sends your imagination flying in a way that is magical and unique.' Daily Express
'A unique talent… Mills's novels are among the best and most original in recent English fiction.' Literary Review
'Magnus Mills is a genius…an extraordinary individual with a completely unique view of the world, who makes sense of it in totally unexpected and inexplicable ways. It's rare that you finish a book feeling so richly satisfied.' Big Issue
'A unique talent ... Mills's novels are among the best and most original in recent English fiction' Literary Review --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
It is an excellent examination of the human condition of never being satisfied with what you have and in trying to improve and abuse a rather idyllic situation, realising it can all come to an unforeseen end (or foreseen for the reader).
Having now read a few more of Mills' books, I seek comfort in identifying with his dry look at behaviour in society through his prose. His novels are written in the first person and the reader is never given the name or gender of the character whose point of view his novels are written from, which immediately transports you into that situation.
I definitely recommend this, and other novels by the same author, to those who enjoy people-watching and human idiosyncrasies.
The narrator—unnamed, as ever—is one cog in the machine that makes up the eponymous Scheme, driving a Univan from one depot to another delivering an unspecified product for an unspecified purpose and an unspecified wage. The scene is beautifully Mills-ian, unquestioning men at work in the company of other unquestioning men, never dwelling long enough with each other for characters to develop above a single identifiable trait; George delivers cakes as a sideline, Jonathan is in his first week, Arthur is the grumpy guardian of keys. The narrator—again typically—is also slightly marginalized: he feels uncomfortable in the communal canteen and in the early stages of the book is taken off of his regular run to make solitary timing journeys to Eden Lacey depot, prior to possible expansion of the scheme. Thus, when there is something of an uprising in his home depot (a clash of ethics between early swervers and flat-dayers) he misses it and, as ever, ‘plot’ is something that happens elsewhere.
This technique may be unique to Mills but its effects have been tried and tested in all his novels to date. Despite (or possibly because of) our narrator’s obedient reluctance to question or embellish, our imaginations run riot, trying to fill in so many gaps that we create a fiction all of our own. Then, when Mills casually drops in answers to some of our questions, we can find ourselves bowled over by nothing more than effortless simplicity. Just like we can never be sure who are the Hall Brothers in The Restraint of Beasts or why does Bryan Webb wear a cardboard crown in All Quiet on the Orient Express, it’s a long time before we figure out exactly what The Scheme is all about. Or, at least, that’s the idea.
And this is my main criticism of The Scheme for Full Employment: I never considered Mills to be running a mile ahead of me this time out; it’s all a bit obvious, and I guessed the twists. None of the characters are as bafflingly enigmatic as Michael Painter in Three to See The King, or Hodge in All Quiet, for example. None of the settings are as instantly eerie as any of the pubs in Mills’ first two novels and the parable at the heart of the story is not so provocatively told as it is in his third. What we get is almost a Mills novel by numbers: all the ingredients are there but some of the magic and mystery has evaporated, mainly through over exposure. This is still a book well worth reading; you’ll fly through it and enjoy every page, but though the breath of air Mills blows through the stuffy contemporary literature scene is not yet stale, neither is it as icy-fresh as it once was.
However, before you dismiss this book out of hand, let me enlighten you with a few facts. This is from a New Economics Foundation Study about what the UK imports and exports:
* In 2004, the UK exported 1,500 tonnes of fresh potatoes to Germany, and imported 1,500 tonnes of the same product from the same country
* Imported 465 tonnes of gingerbread, but exported 460 tonnes of the same produce
* Sent 10,200 tonnes of milk and cream to France, yet imported 9,900 tonnes of the dairy goods from France
Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction!
For me, this is Magnus Mills at his very best. More than ever he has created an extraordinarily beautiful world in which the characters spring to life from the very first page.
I read this from cover to cover late into the night. As with Mills’ previous works I became totally engrossed with the apparent triviality of this world of delivery drivers and depots. So much can be read into this story that I found myself thinking about the characters and plot for several weeks.
Closing the book having read the last page brings one down to earth with an intense frustration.
I firmly believe that Magnus Mills will come to be considered as one of the great authors of the modern age. His work will surely become part of the school syllabus of the future.
Mr Mills, if you are reading this - please write faster!
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