BOOK REVIEW / Wimbledon uncommon: 'They Came From SW19' - Nigel Williams: Faber, 14.99

HARDY'S Wessex; Trollope's Barsetshire; Joyce's Dublin. Will people in future times refer likewise to Nigel Williams's Wimbledon? It certainly can't be ruled out, in view of the fact that They Came From SW19 is the second novel of his in a row to be set in the lawn tennis mecca and suburban stamping ground of the Wombles.

The hero of The Wimbledon Poisoner, Williams's last book, found it hard to convince publishers that there would be an international market for his nine-volume Complete History of Wimbledon. Its global sales prospects might have shot up if it had been able to include the local events reported in this new novel by the 14-year- old narrator, Simon - the apparent spacenapping of Mr Far, his friend and fellow ufologist, and, just as bizarre, the sighting of his recently deceased dad in Stranraer Gardens.

Simon himself is in two minds about his home town. If extraterrestrial aliens are about to take over the planet, then Wimbledon is as probable a starting point as any, he thinks. But he is no passionate fan of the locality. When his father reveals in a seance that his spirit has been condemned to return and roam round SW19, Simon's reaction is to wonder why death brings so few privileges: 'He might not deserve the Elysian Fields, but he hardly deserved that.'

For the bulk of the novel, as the hero becomes embroiled in his mother's cranky church and nearly causes a schism with his announcement of alien landings, Williams has some enjoyably knockabout fun at the expense of such easy targets as spiritualism and power-jostling within sects. But every so often you sense a bleaker book (about the perpetually frustrated desire to believe in something) struggling to get out and only properly surfacing in a sudden rush at the end.

There are hints of the darkness to come in the narrator's tone, which is dotted with the strenuously defensive, jocular cynicism of adolescence ('Betray? I mean, be serious] Who said we trusted each other in the first place? It is nearly the year 2000, my friends') and with the blokey use of the epithet 'old' ('a bit of the old gay sex'; 'without damaging the old insectlife'; 'I could have been old JC himself'), which gets to be a bit of an old bore. You wonder, at times, if something has happened to cause this iron breeziness.

Nothing quite prepares you, however, for the startling revelations of the last few pages. The paranormal and extraterrestrial phenomena are found to have mundane and deeply depressing explanations, with the ironic effect of convincing an emotionally cauterised Simon that only alien possession can account for the behaviour of some humans - not least his father. 'I'm staying as far out of it all as I can,' he resolves, giving the impression he'd like to put in for a species-transfer. It's as though Clive James suddenly got the boot as the book's presiding spirit and was succeeded by Jonathan Swift. It feels a bit of a cheat, a belated attempt to convert entertaining teenage fiction into serious adult literature.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment

Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy

Arts and Entertainment
And now for something completely different: the ‘Sin City’ episode of ‘Casualty’
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

    Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

    After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
    The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

    After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

    Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
    Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

    Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

    The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
    10 best sun creams for kids

    10 best sun creams for kids

    Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
    Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

    Tate Sensorium

    New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
    Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

    Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

    He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
    Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

    Remember Ashton Agar?

    The No 11 that nearly toppled England
    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks