Search This Blog

Monday, 19 April 2010

Books - In A Strange Room - Damon Galgut

Star rating – 6/10

Having enjoyed Damon Galgut’s last novel, ‘The Imposter’ very much, I was very much looking forward to reading this one. It is not really a novel, more like three novellas joined up loosely into one book, which in my book is a short story collection. I have to admit here that I don’t like short stories, to me they usually feel unsatisfactory and artificially brief. I feel short changed. So did I feel short changed by this book? Well, yes and no is the honest answer.

The three experiences narrated here are very different, and Galgut uses his talent as a writer to transport the reader to different places and different emotions very skilfully. It takes a little while to work out who is telling the stories as he slips from first to third person quite readily, but once this is clear it is easy to go where Galgut is taking you.

The first journey ‘The Follower’ took place when he was a young man travelling in Greece. He meets a German fellow traveller called Reiner who is handsome but very mysterious and brooding, a bit like the Clint Eastwood character in an old Western. They hook up again in for a trek in Lesotho, but never really seem to connect properly. The narrator is sexually attracted to Reiner, but also repelled by him too, with his self centred and OCD like behaviour. It feels like a very lonely and depressing experience.

The second is called ‘The Lover’ and there is also sexual tension, and unconsummated love with a young man the narrator meets whilst travelling through Africa. The sense of frustration as the tension builds and wanes, again and again, is palpable. And Galgut tells the story beautifully.

The final novella, ‘The Guardian’ is the most depressing as he is now taking care of his dear friend Anna who is depressed and suicidal. He decides that a trip through India will help, but inevitably it does not. And again he is to all intents alone with his feelings and feels badly let down.

Galgut is a great writer. His prose is tight. His evocation of place and emotion is skilful. So maybe it was the short story like formation that meant that this didn’t quite gel for me as it should have done. I will read more of Galgut, but will stick to his meatier volumes in future.

No comments:

Post a Comment