Tom McCarthy

First Sentence: Dr. Learmont, newly appointed general practitioner for the districts of West Masedown and New Eliry, rocks and jolts on the front seat of a trap as it descends the lightly sloping path of Versoie House.

First things first: I did not enjoy this book. It tells the life story of Serge Carrefax, beginning with his birth in England in 1898. It then follows him through all the major points in his life; when his sister Sophie dies at their home (Versoie House); when he lives in the spa-town of Klodebrady trying to get well; when he is an observer in the war flying in spotter planes, attacking the Germans; when he is a prisoner of war; when he goes to London and gets into drugs, and finally when he goes to Egypt and suffers his inevitable demise. I’ve heard that this book is experimental. I don’t see how. I’ve heard that this book is challenging. I don’t see how. Really, I just found it to be incredibly dull and utterly devoid of warmth or beauty. The ‘C’ in the title (possibly) relates to Carbon, the essence of all life, and it is clear from the start that this book is preoccupied, nearly obsessed with, the connectivity of  all things in life:

Everything seems connected: disparate locations twitch and burst into activity like limbs reacting to impulses sent from elsewhere in the body, booms and jibs obeying levers at the far end of a complex set of ropes and cogs and relays.

Connected, all the events, themes, characters and symbols in this book may be, but they are, at the same time, entirely unconvincing and, for me at least, completely uninteresting.


Last Sentence: The wake itself remains, etched out across the water’s surface; then it fades as well, although no one is there to see it go.

Last Sentence explained: The ‘wake’ in question is from the boat where Serge dies. Again, we are asked to think about the connectivity of it all. How the trails left by the boat are like the vapour trails criss-crossing the skies over wartime Germany, or maybe the invisible radio waves that are around us all the time, or, most obviously, the two white lines could be a mirror image of all the Cocaine Serge snorted in London, which itself was on a mirror…and on and on and on and on

(Actually, I quite like that last sentence. Much better than the opener, that’s for sure.)


One thought on “C

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