Daily Bookshot: By the Canal



By the Canal, originally uploaded by Robert Burdock.

I’ve got admit that I don’t have an awful lot of knowledge of Lee Rourke’s debut novel, The Canal (Melville House) at this time, other than knowing that there are a lot of influential literary types saying a lot of interesting things about it right now (Stuart Evers, John Self and Luke Gerwe for instance). And if further interest were needed to be generated, then one need not look much further than the novel’s own synopsis to find it:

In a deeply compelling debut novel, Lee Rourke – a British underground sensation for his story collection Everyday – tells the tale of a man who finds his life so boring it frightens him. So he quits his job to spend some time sitting on a bench beside a quiet canal in a placid London neighbourhood, watching the swans in the water and the people in the glass-fronted offices across the way while he collects himself.

However his solace is soon interrupted when a jittery young woman begins to show up and sit beside him every day. Although she won’t even tell him her name, she slowly begins to tell him a chilling story about a terrible act she committed, something for which she just can’t forgive herself – and which seems to have involved one of the men they can see working in the building across the canal.

Torn by fear and pity, the man becomes more immersed in her tale, and finds that boredom has, indeed, brought him to the most terrifying place he’s ever been.

Now that ladies and gentlemen, sounds utterly compelling doesn’t it?. Prepare to see me sink my teeth into this one on RobAroundBooks, in the very near future.

Meantime let me know if you’ve read Lee’s already and what you thought of it. Or if this is one that’s sitting on top of your reading pile eagerly awaiting your attention, then I’d love to hear what you are expecting from it.

Melville House | June 2010 (US). July 2010 (UK) | $14.95 (US). £9.99 (UK) | PAPERBACK | 224 PP | ISBN: 9781935554011

About Rob

Rob, a self-confessed bibliophile, is without any hope of rehabilitation. He gets unnaturally excited over anything book-shaped, and if book sniffing were a crime then he would have been locked up years ago (which wouldn't bother him in the slightest provided his cell was lined with books).

Comments

  1. It actually sounds quite dull, but I am intrigued that so many people are raving about a book with such a boring premise. Its inclusion on the ‘Not the Booker’ list has added to my interest. It takes a very talented author to make such an ordinary story really good so all this praise makes me think it is worth reading. I look forward to seeing what you make of it 🙂

    • Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)
      says:

      See that’s odd Jackie, what you consider to be dull, I consider to be fascinating. I often find that there can be real beauty in the mundane, and that from the ordinary something wonderfully profound can spring. I sense that The Canal may be one of these kinds of stories.
      Anyway, I’ll let you know in due course
      With warmest regards
      Rob

  2. Stujallen (Twitter: stujallen)
    says:

    can see why people are raving sbout this book it seems like a unusal story and in some ways a story that could happen ,many time i d give up my job to sit by the canal lol ,all the best stu

    • Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)
      says:

      Hi Stu,
      It may well be the ordinariness of this story that gives it its most appeal. Be interesting finding out.
      Warmest
      Rob

  3. Now, I am no literary critic but the novel certainly isn’t dull. I found it a slow burner to begin with but then it really kicked in once I got my head around it. I actually think it is pretty fascinating and I am more than a little disturbed by the fact that I was not appalled by the things I think reviewers have expected readers to be appalled by.

    The question of boredom seems to have really captured people’s imaginations and I don’t think this novel works until you accept that boredom isn’t being bored in the generally accepted sense, i.e. not having anything to do and feeling distressed by that. I think it’s more about what could happen if you choose not to be distressed by that but empowered by it and allow yourself not to be endlessly entertained or occupied in visibly obvious activity.

    What also struck me is the way that it presents someone who has done an awful thing and who has thoughts many of us would (or perhaps think we ought to) consider really rather perverse, and it asks us to accept that she is a normal human being just like the rest of us. At least I think that’s what it does. This is juxtaposed with the male protagonist regularly reassuring himself and us that he is normal, he’s not psychotic or weird, assuming of course that the norm is not psychotic or weird, which actually it might be.

  4. Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)
    says:

    For someone who claims not to be a critic, Pie, you give a very profound analysis. Thank you for taking the time to post this. It must have taken you ages.

    All I can say right now, with all of this talk of ‘awful things’ and ‘psychosis’ is that you’ve well and truly piqued my interest. I’ll get to it just as soon as I can. Stayed tuned. It’ll be interesting to compare notes.
    Warmest regards
    Rob

  5. I’ve just reviewed this one, Rob, and it is indeed a profound book that really says so much about the way we live our lives in 21st century Britain (or any Western nation for that matter). One of the things it explores is the link between boredom and violence, which might partly explain why there’s a menacing edge to modern society.

    • Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)
      says:

      Thank you Kim, you’ve made it sound even MORE compelling now. I doubt I’m going to last another week without reading it. This link between boredom and violence has got me super intrigued.
      Warmest regards
      Rob