Quilt by Nicholas Royle

This book demands concentration.  It’s not a long read, only 159 pages, but because of its experimental writing style you do, at times, need to make the effort to commit to it and not drift off!  It’s a book I’d be reluctant to recommend to many people, purely because of this style.

However, I’m always up for a challenge, and there was a certain amount of satisfaction to be found when, maybe halfway through, I ‘got’ it and discovered what the writer was asking of the reader.  And if you enjoy a clever use of language and don’t mind piecing together clues from the fractured sentences to make your own story, then this is right up your street.

The novel tackles the madness which grief can bring very well.  The nameless main narrator is devastated by his father’s sudden death and is clearly still affected by his mother’s passing two years previously.  He struggles to come to terms with clearing out his father’s house, the family home, and develops an increasingly odd hobby which takes up more and more of his time.  The broken writing style does seem to suit the subject matter well, and at times the language chosen creates genuinely moving details, but unfortunately the writer’s mission to avoid cliché leads to similes and metaphors which “insist on strangeness” (his words), which sometimes work beautifully and sometimes embarrassingly fail.

I don’t regret reading Quilt, but this is the type of book which always makes me wonder whether it’s actually clever or just difficult to read?  I felt that overall it’s worth the extra effort to read, although I do love a good story and this didn’t have quite enough story for me!  I can see that the book would also now benefit from re-reading, as the writer actually asks us to do in his afterword, but I’m not sure I feel like it.  I want to move on to something new when I turn the final page of a book!  Maybe I’ll put it back on the shelf and pick it up again in a year or two.  I’ll let you know if I get any more out of it the second time round…


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Carol Hunter
    Jul 17, 2011 @ 19:30:44

    Yes, I agree. Is it too clever for itself? I enjoyed reading Quilt and re-read it almost immediately. I like the lyricism in the language and the boldness of the concept. I was also prompted to research some of the more obscure literary references references. I found the afterword audacious and rather unnecessary – didn’t realy explain anything and I wasn’t sure why it was there. It is a book I would re-read every couple of years or so. I like the author’s non-fiction work + I’m about to embark on another of his novels – Antwerp. Will add comment in due course.


    • TheBrontëSister
      Jul 17, 2011 @ 20:55:58

      Yes it was a shame the afterword was included at all. It seemed so pompous and really brought out my negative feelings towards the book! I look forward to future comments about Antwerp…


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