Wednesday, 4 May 2011

A Year in Books 2011 - Something to Tell You

I loved Buddha of Suburbia by Hanif Kureishi and I've enjoyed pretty much everything he has written since. Having said that I don't think anything has hit the heights of his debut novel and there was a few too many books about middle aged men having some form a sexual crisis, normally with someone a lot younger and usually involving the painful break up of a a marriage or two. He also has a tendency for one of my biggest irritations in literature, writers making the main character a writer, writing about the writing process, or worst of all both.

Therefore it was with a big relief when I started "Something To Tell You" and the main character Jamal is a psychotherapist and some of the most interesting bits of the book come from the reasons Jamal came to the profession and his parcels of knowledge that Jamal drops throughout his narrative. As ever none of the relationships are stable or straightforward but with an older narrator ., the complexity and variety make a much more interesting read than the guilt and angst of a man in his 40s having an affair.

Hanif Kureishi has always been good at the cast of supporting characters and Something to Tell You is no exception. From the Asian gay pop star and Jamal's best friend Henry, the aged successful theatre director enjoying a new lease of life to the energy and unpredictability of Jamal's sister and his adolescent confusions of his son, each character is given time and space to breathe and come alive.

The plot hinges on an event that happens in Jamal's teenage years involving the father of his then love of his life. Jamal tells his story leading up to the event and then years later when people from his past reappear. The passages set in the past as the location switches between London and for a short period Pakistan work just as well as the here and now. Around this event the various relationships play out and the central theme of responsibility for our actions comes through. As ever with Kureishi there is more than a streak of selfishness that runs through Jamal (this adds to the impression that much as I like his books I dont think I'd like him as a friend) however part of the joy of this novel is Jamal and a majority of the other characters are just simply a lot more likeable (weaknesses and all) than a lot of other characters that have graced Kureishi's pages.

Although the event drives the plot along, there is so much more going on with a messiness that reflects how we age and our wants and desires evolve and change. Jamal experiences this when he meets again the love of his life and Henry through his relationship

As ever the book is shot through with a mixture of spot on observations and wry sense of humour, that if not laugh out loud did have me smiling on the tube. The book ends on a bit of an all's well that ends well which gives a real sense of hope and satisfaction and a bit of a warm fuzzy feeling
You can buy Something to Tell you here

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