Cham, By Jonathan Trigell

There's a chilling edge to this tale of skiing, sex and partying

Mountains make us feel spiritual, at least since Shelley, Byron and assorted Romantics became inspired by their threatening grandeur. Itchy shares this legacy of awe, though much of his reverence for the peaks around Chamonix stems from the superior skiing they afford. In Jonathan Trigell's novel, he works as a bartender in "Cham", and hits the slopes in between partying with tourists and other boho ski bums.

Itchy is addicted to powder – not cocaine, but the powdery snow that makes for the best skiing. Powder, thinks Itchy, is "purity and transience and pleasure distilled". His other addictions are less innocent. He hardly needs skis to help himself downhill, enslaved as he is to booze and casual sex.

Cham is being likened to Alex Garland's The Beach. It explores another youth-oriented sub-culture – think skis and snowboards rather than backpacks – and the writing has a similar crafted intensity. Sharp metaphors are cut into its pages: a cheesy ski rep is "as cool as the other side of an insomniac's pillow"; when Itchy pushes his skiing beyond his limits of physical endurance, his face becomes "scrunched in pain like a screwed-up bill".

The plot hooks are prominent, yet snag us effectively. First, Itchy cannot come to terms with something in his past; second, his sexual adventures have a disturbing parallel in the depredations of a serial rapist loose in Cham. The rapes are taking place in an underground car park and sometimes Itchy hides himself away there, partly to drink in private but also to see if he can catch his dark alter ego.

Where the prose lacks elegance it compensates with pace, as Trigell propels us insistently around the slalom of his tale. The main narrative is made more measured, however, by interpolations of historical material on Byron, Shelley and other Romantic superstars, plus three short stories inspired by Romantic texts and supposedly written by Itchy as a student. If it is hard to believe he authored them, that is because they are outstanding imitations, and some of the best material in the novel.

Potentially offputting is the boho milieu, complete with wayward offspring from monied families – although it is to Trigell's credit that he does not obscure that. More taxing is Itchy's tendency to take himself unusually seriously, and some readers might find his latterday doomed-Romantic stance overblown. More in the way of Romantic irony would have been welcome here.

Serpent's tail, £10.99. Order for £9.89 (free p&p) on 0870 079 8897

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week