PICADOR £12.99 £11.99 (P&P FREE) 08700 798 897
Man Overboard by Tim Binding
Sunday 17 July 2005
On the first page Binding gorges on the poetic possibility of this Baltic fate: "It is cold here and the windows look out over snow-capped trees to the hidden town below. I have a blanket over my legs but still the winds of Mother Russia fly under the door and seize the room." The sanatorium in which Crabb is dying is described as sitting above the town "like a deposed monarch, frozen in attitude, waiting for obeisance".
Elsewhere Crabb is portrayed as a man of few words, a right-wing stiff, so why is he spouting such stuff? At times the character feels uncomfortably like the author's pawn, a literary marionette. He cor-blimeys at renaissance masterpieces during a posting in Venice, muses on Keats and even hangs Picasso prints in his hospital ward during a bout of jaundice.
Half-way through the novel, something powerful enough to derail my knee-jerk cynicism finally occurs. In an episode reminiscent of "Verochka", Chekhov's tale of a stillborn affair, Crabb inexplicably retreats from the sexual love offered to him by his Italian girlfriend. "She breathed in deeply; her body rose up under my hold, monstrous and misshapen, a cold pallor upon it, as if drowned. I drew my hand back." Before this, Binding's attempt to portray a man at odds with himself only added to the reader's sense of the character as a puppet. Failure brings Crabb to life. Finally, the reader can accept the psychological nuances Binding brings to his protagonist. The retrospective jog through war-tattered London becomes strangely haunting.
This novel certainly has its faults and Crabb's synthetic literariness repeatedly jars. But Man Overboard is an enjoyable read, and streaked with a quiet lyricism for which you can forgive many sins.
TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre