In A Strange Room

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!

14 thoughts on “In A Strange Room

  1. Donna 4 October 2010 / 1:35 pm

    Right Roberta, I’ve had to put a hold on now, it’d take a sterner heart than mine to resist your blandishments!

    • robertafsmith 4 October 2010 / 1:53 pm

      Oh, I do hope you like it – it is always a risk to be evangelical with one’s reads!

  2. AnneSchauffer 4 October 2010 / 6:24 pm

    I am (nearly) driving as we speak to get my hands on a copy. I’m a sucker for an evangelist.

    • robertafsmith 5 October 2010 / 11:55 am

      Have you read other Galguts Anne? Hope I am not misleading people and that you are all going to corner me and beat me up verbally one day!

  3. Allison 4 October 2010 / 7:51 pm

    Now this is excellent timing! I’ve just taken the Galgut out of my Friday morning book club (the Other One). And I swear I shall start reading it this very evening. Will keep you posted!

    P.S. I also managed to lay my hands on the Peter Carey; a good haul this month.

    • robertafsmith 5 October 2010 / 11:56 am

      I’ve also put the Peter carey into my bookclub, haven’t read it yet but am looking forward to it.

  4. Jin 5 October 2010 / 6:35 am

    Oh, how I enjoy your writing, Roberta. She will make a point of getting hold of this book, for sure. Thank you!

    • robertafsmith 5 October 2010 / 11:56 am

      Tee Hee, clever with the pronouns aren’t you!

  5. Rachel 5 October 2010 / 8:35 am

    I put a hold on this book as soon as the Booker shortlist was announced. Now I’m really pleased I did. Thanks for your review, Roberta. I’m not too far down the queue and your comments reinforce the hope I have something wonderful to look forward to.

  6. robertafsmith 5 October 2010 / 11:57 am

    I do hope that it works for you.

  7. Diane 5 October 2010 / 3:15 pm

    I love that quote, “memory has its own distances.” It has enormous implications for those of us who’ve migrated.

  8. purplerulz 5 October 2010 / 8:20 pm

    I have just put a hold on it,on your recommendation it must be a good thang!

    • robertafsmith 6 October 2010 / 7:36 am

      I think it will be interesting for you to read after Man Alone Men Together (which I have also placed on hold.) But I am getting a bit nervous now, hope people will let me know if they don’t like it and why.

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