Clanchy, a distinguished short story writer has set himself a challenge with his first novel. The two parts referred to in the subtitle are very different from each other. The first takes the form of a writer, writing his own life as a work of fiction under the guise of it being a ‘friend’s story’. His sister hates it. She has no taste, is all I can say. It’s utterly engaging, and that applies even when he gets into the gross details of his bucks’ night. It isn’t at all easy to make those kinds of scenes work. Another aspect I was particularly taken with is the ease with which he writes about sport, without, let me hasten to say, ever being offputting for the reader whose eyes glaze over at the very word. There’s a hilarious scene with his marriage counsellor, which is no doubt informed by having been in that line of work himself.
The second part of the novel could not be more different from the first. Now death, not life is firmly at the centre of affairs and we are in the present, it is the author speaking of himself, not the author speaking of himself through his ‘friend’. The jump is difficult to pull off and I don’t know if Clanchy really manages it. I would dearly love to be able to talk to another person who has read this. I read some of the second part again, trying to get a better sense of it, but it didn’t really help.
How can it be that I am apparently the only person in the world who has read this novel, by an established Australian writer who has won the odd prize? It’s so very disappointing. Reading has become such an undiversified activity, apparently, that not one person on goodreads has read this. The sum interest in it consists of one person’s to-read-list.
I do hope that changes. He’s a massively underrated writer and with the loss today of Peter Temple, bumping Clanchy up the list of Australian writers would do no harm.