This remarkable first novel imagines a center for journalists, all refugees who were forced to emigrate, its irrepressible leader, Julian Snowman, and his oppressive regime of liberal piety, and the stories of his damaged but legendary clients.
Julian created the House of Journalists; it is his baby. The residents are called “fellows”; the emphasis is on “fellowship,” and yet Julian’s attitude is paternalistic, even patronizing—after all he is their patron. The novel lets several “fellows” who are not all fellows tell their tales. The testimonies of Agnes and Sonny, the wheelchair-bound Mr. Stan and the mournful Mustapha are harrowing tales of torture and rape, narrow escapes and picaresque odysseys. Sonny, scrounging discarded fast food in a first-world capital, remarks: “It tasted corporate, industrialized, first world, throwaway. One day I would throw away food like this, I promised myself.” We hear, too, from the volunteers and mentors, from a government minister and a profane, prize-winning writer. The mysterious AA, a new arrival, is the only one to escape from the House as little-known as when he arrives. His presence unnerves the increasingly paranoid Julian, who jealously guards his fellows—whose lives are his livelihood. Finch, former director of communications for the Refugee Council, at present works for a London think tank, the Institute for Public Policy Research. Here, he demonstrates an instinctive grasp of the malleability of fiction.
Satiric, tough and very funny.