Debut Review: The Pools by Bethan Roberts

The Pools by Bethan Robers

Title: The Pools
Author: Bethan Roberts
Publisher: Serpent’s Tail
Published: 29 August 2007
Price: £10.99
Review Copy

Bethan Roberts has started her literary career with a disturbing tale of Middle England, mid-1980s when the death of a teenager, Robert, is the inevitably conclusion to the paths of many lives.

This is a hard book to pin down. Beth rebuilds the events that lead up to Robert’s death but she goes further than that. She dismembers them. She gets under the skin of the narrators as she retraces the steps.

This is not a who dunnit. It’s not even a why dunnit. It’s story of life and how our characters might be natured as well as nurtured and how we can’t escape from what is in our hearts.

I wish that Roberts wasn’t so honest in her portrayal. I was she’d been more writery so that the story isn’t as brutal as it is. But she doesn’t flinch and she doesn’t pull her punches. She confronts the confusion we experience as we find out who we are and maybe face the realisation that we can’t escape what we done or perhaps the effect that our parents have on us.

Overall, Bethan has created a challenging novel that delves deep into the pools inside each one of us and it makes you question your own decisions. It also makes you thankful that you still have choices. An outstandingly insightful début.

Now OOP but you can still read it via ebook

Review: Rant by Chuck Palahnuik (Jonathan Cape)


Rant by Chuck Palahnuik
Jonathan Cape Published 2007

Palahnuik takes us to the world of Daytimers and Nighttimers, where the Nightimers spend their evenings engaged in Party Crashing and where Porting has replaced other forms of media.

But the world isn’t important, Buster Casey is, and to quote one of the characters – he’s, ‘… the worst Patient Zero in the history of disease’.

Rant Casey carries rabies, but not only carries it, but infects himself and others around him with it again and again. And in doing so becomes a legend, a fable, that spreads much like the rabies he carries from person to person and Rant’s oral history is retold through a series of interviews all used to help to explain the bigger picture.

The interview technique is a bit complicated as hearing different points of view and perspectives from several people takes some concentration. Luckily all of the interviewees are named and on their first appearance in each chapter we are told (or retold) a bit more about them like if they are a Party Crasher, Historian, or Mother. You get to know more about some those that were close to Rant and as well as his story as the book progresses. And the in some ways the other people are more interesting than Rant himself.

Palahnuik is an excellent storyteller as he uses this book to explore the spiderwebs of connections that each person has around them. There are no minor characters here. Each has an important role in moving the story forward and in revealing the connections that aren’t so obvious as they first appear.

This book is also a tale about the lies we tell ourselves like the tooth fairy who, as you grow up, replaces your useless tooth with money and to Buster Casey teeth are very valuable indeed. Or that if you’re wearing a wedding dressed driving a car covered in decorations that you must have just got married.

Rant is not the book I expected it to be. I thought that this would be a simple retelling of the life of Buster Casey from those who knew him. Instead it’s an exploration of life and how Buster Casey is the secret to a world that you wouldn’t think existed.

It does have its flaws, mostly due to the style of the short sections, meaning it doesn’t flow easily on occasion. As you either find yourself hearing from a person you’re not particularly interested in (even if what they say is meaningful to the plot) or you loose who is talking and what connection they are to everything.

By the time I got to the end I wanted to start all over again in order to see how what’s revealed in the end is already told to you from the beginning. I probably will re-read it was the end is a little more complicated than I expected. This might make it a little disappointing to some readers who want everything a bit more cut and dry or who enjoyed the Party Crashing for just causing chaos.

This was my first Chuck Palahnuik novel and it won’t be my last.