More books from the Lost Book Library I have now read, or failed to read.
The Sioux by Irene Handl
One I read before I started the library. I found this novel about a freaky French family by Metal Mickey's Gran to be intriguing, but ultimately a bit stagey. David Quantick was raving about it on Twitter the other week though, so what do I know?
Glitterball by Rochelle Larkin
Status: Abandoned, p. 98
I was initially impressed by this disco-themed novel clearly inspired by the story of Studio 54. Despite being satisfyingly racy with assorted seventies pill-popping rock stars, disco divas and general beautiful people descending on the latest New York nightspot, it also matter-of-factly explored what it involved to actually set up and run the place. It had it's own weird integrity, which is exactly what I'm looking for here. About a third of the way in, however, the whole book was sunk by an improbable and gynecologically detailed sex scene that smashed through the protagonist's character arc like a donger-shaped wrecking ball. It felt sellotaped in to keep the publisher happy, and, the illusion broken, suddenly the whole thing just seemed rather silly. My initial fear was that this book wouldn't be sexy enough for its subject matter. Turns out it was just too sexy for it.
Thumb Tripping by Don Mitchell
This hippy-hitchhiking novel was a delight, all in all. Telling the story of counter-cultural couple Gary and Chay, and of their adventures hitching rides across California, it follows a basic story pattern of 'hitch ride/find something to disapprove of in attitude to life of driver/escape from car when driver reveals themselves to be total mentalist'. Nevertheless, there are some enjoyably strange situations, such as a suburban housewife stealing a watch from the corpse of a crash victim, and it's subtle enough to expose the limitations of both straight and hippy life choices. This is a book that asks the question 'Where do we go from here?', and shrugs its shoulders.
Cuckoo by Wendy Perriam
A well-off couple can't conceive. Meanwhile the husband's illegitimate daughter crashes into their lives, forcing the wife into an affair with a Polytechnic lecturer in Icelandic Studies. Although there are a lot of good things going on here, and Perriam's eye for telling detail is astonishingly strong, this doesn't quite hang together. Starting off like Carla Lane, before veering towards Neil LaBute before settling somewhere around Mike Leigh, it feels like the ideas for two different novels are living unhappily together in the same paperback body. The protagonist is sometimes the most uptight prude on the planet, sometimes happy to slum it with the aforementioned lecturer in his filthy flat, and improbably getting a job as a cab driver for a few chapters. The husband is essentially nasty, with no insight provided into why he is, or whether there's anything else going on in there. Nevertheless, there are lots of enjoyable scenes, including what sounds like the house party from Hell and a fantastic early 80s polytechnic end-of-term ball. More a novel made up of good bits than a good novel.
The Upstart by Piers Paul Read
Status: Abandoned, p. 65
A bit of a frustrating one, this. This tale of a vicar's son who turns on his aristocratic childhood friends when they humiliate him and starts on a path of revenge-filled debauchery begins very well. The description of post-war village life and the relations between the landowners and common-folk is impressively vivid, but the actual humiliation that spurs on the rest of the story, involving a dinner jacket, just feels too small for the momentous significance awarded to it. Consequently, everything that followed felt false, and I couldn't be doing with it. Oh well.