From Murray (A Carnivore’s Inquiry, 2004, etc.), a disappointing novel set in a politically-charged Greece, mainly on the fictionalized island of Aspros in 1963.
It’s much more fun to describe the contents of the novel than to actually read it. Rupert Brigg is visiting Greece to uncover antiquities—even fake ones will do—for the man he calls Uncle William, but who is really his father. Along the way, Brigg meets a cluster of people: Clive and Nathan, a gay couple; Jack and Amanda, an artist and his promiscuous wife; the handsome Nikos, Amanda’s lover; Hester, the wife Rupert divorced; Olivia, who falls in love with Rupert but dies of cancer; and Steve Kelly, a prying newspaperman, as well as various revelers, diggers and double-crossers. In weak homage to Hemingway, there’s an astonishing amount of drinking and smoking. So let’s see…we have Greece, island caves, political and personal intrigue, art (and its simulacrum—see title), adultery, terminal illness and even murder, but it all adds up to very little. The novel has no pace or drive, no buildup or payoff. The murder doesn’t particularly interest the reader, and the revelation of the murderer is practically mentioned as an aside. Even Rupert’s personal tragedy—the death of his two-year-old son Michael—doesn’t give him much depth, and we don’t feel sympathetic to his coping mechanisms. We’re told how talented an artist Jack is, but the idolatry on which the novel ends seems misplaced. At one point Rupert seems to uncover in himself some aptitude for art, perhaps arising from his training as an expert in authenticating furniture, but with his usual ennui he explains to Nikos that he has “no creative urge. No obsession. No glorious dementia… No gift.” That about sums things up.
Doesn’t deliver anything it aims for.