In my blog about two weeks ago: My Pub Quiz Fantasy – The Man Booker Prize, I hoped that In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut would be this year’s Man Booker winner. Well, I’ve just finished reading it and I no longer care if it is the Booker winner or not. I just want other people to read it. I want to share it. It’s that good.
Three stories make up the book: The Follower, The Lover, and The Guardian. Galgut is the central character throughout. In each story he fails either to follow, to love or to guard. But put that way off to one side because he excels as The Storyteller in prose that is clean, compelling, almost hypnotic.
Arguments against this novel as a work of fiction seem spurious. All memory is fiction. Try comparing your memory of an event with someone else’s. Greg and I can barely agree as to the exact sequence of events on The Night Of The Earthquake and that was only a month ago. I rest my case. Galgut gets round this by writing mainly in the third person “he” and then unexpectedly switching to the first person “I”. He explains this early on in the novel on page 5:
“He sits on the edge of a raised stone floor and stares out unseeingly into the hills around him and now he is thinking of things that happened in the past. Looking back at him through time, I remember him remembering, and I am more present in the scene than he was. But memory has its own distances, in part he is me entirely, in part he is a stranger I am watching.”
Needless to say book clubs around the world can expect me to foist this latest Galgut on them. As a tribute to his writing I will finish off in Galgut style:
She knew she would put this latest book into her book club. She could see her lovely friends skirt it warily, see people pick it up and put it down. She could feel that they would rather have had another Jodi Picoult. But I don’t care, I want to share this with them. I want us to remember this book together.
Someone out there, read this book. Share your comments. I am lonely here in my one woman Damon Galgut Fanclub!