A quick, droll, pleasantly amusing love story set in London around about now.
Max Lesser—like his creator, Hoban (Angelica’s Grotto, 2001, etc.)—is a novelist and children’s book writer (Max’s novels don’t sell, though his series about a hedgehog, Charlotte Prickles, does very well), but, seemingly unlike Hoban, he’s blocked, long since unable to get “anything that looks like Page One of a new novel” or to get a new hedgehog idea. Then? Well, through the mail slot comes an anonymous CD with a raga on it—and, after Max plays it, things get curiouser and curiouser. Max has a kind of blackout on his way to a lunch date, then is more or less assaulted by an ugly and smelly dwarf who’s groveling almost animal-like on the pavement: this dwarf leaps onto Max’s back and flattens himself there, tangible and visible to poor Max but not to others. What is he? A visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum and a statue there of Shiva reveals that the dwarf, held down under Shiva’s foot (the weight disappears from Max’s back as the dwarf slips back under the foot), is Apasmara Purusha, the “dwarf demon called Forgetfulness.” Another visit, this time to a kind of prophetess named Grace Kowalski, who’s aided by much vodka and another playing of the raga, at last reveals to Max who sent him the CD: Lola Bessington! The reader may be a bit confused as to how Max could ever have forgotten the wonderful Lola, or what her motive really was in sending the raga (she composed the music herself), but there’s no confusion at all as bit by bit Max re-remembers Lola, how much they loved each other, and then the awful, awful, contemptible thing he did to her that ended all—until now, and their near-miraculous, no, their miraculous reunion.
Sophisticated pleasures and a grown-up love story from the estimable Hoban.