Beta
X

13Jun

Batlava Lake by Adam Mars-Jones review – Barry no mates

A beautifully constructed novella carefully reveals the failings of a hopelessly unperceptive British army engineer

Adam Mars-Jones’s new novella – new to us, that is, as it was first published in Areté magazine in 2017 – is one of those books that proceeds by what it doesn’t tell us. On the one hand, it doesn’t tell us much at all, being fewer than 100 pages long. On the other, narrator Barry Ashton likes to talk a lot, but seems to have trouble getting to the point.

Barry is on the surface a new type of narrator for Mars-Jones: bit of a bloke, an engineer with the British army (“attached to a peacekeeping mission in a hellhole”), oh, and he’s heterosexual too. But scratch his chirpy, guileless, exclamation-mark-spangled exterior (“Often it’s the smallest birds that have the richest song. Making no claims for myself!”) and there are familiar qualities. A fussy meticulousness, like John Cromer in Pilcrow and Cedilla. And a refusal to see what’s under his nose, like Colin in Box Hill.

Continue reading...

Related

‘It’s the best way to live!’: International Booker winners Geetanjali Shree and Daisy Rockwell

The Indian novelist and her translator scooped the £50,000 prize with Tomb of Sand, a novel about de...

Read More >

Translating Myself and Others by Jhumpa Lahiri review – the sanctuary of language

The novelist’s collection of essays on translation only hint at what led her to take refuge in Ital...

Read More >

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by Joanne Greenberg review – rock bottom in a ‘rest home’

First published in 1964, this striking account of Greenberg’s years in a psychiatric hospital revea...

Read More >

The Opposite of a Person by Lieke Marsman review – climate and Copernicus meet in the Italian Alps

The impact of blowing up a hydroelectric dam, the limits of identity politics and the Renaissance po...

Read More >

The best recent translated fiction – review roundup

Portrait of an Unknown Lady by María Gainza; The Trouble With Happiness by Tove Ditlevsen; The Land ...

Read More >

We Move by Gurnaik Johal review – a colourful tapestry of multicultural lives

Johal weaves stories of Southall citizens with economy and skill in this compelling debut collection...

Read More >