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.
Music Why this music festival is still the place to spot the next big thing
Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 East 17 bandmember Brian Harvey in 'very desperate situation’
- 2 Is this bridge haunted by the ghost of nu rave?
- 3 Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
- 4 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 5 Scientists have discovered a simple way to cook rice that dramatically cuts the calories
Britain's first cinema flickers back to life following £6m refurbishment
A historian gave the most British look of despair when someone screwed up Richard III's birthday at his reburial
James May hints Top Gear days are over following Jeremy Clarkson's BBC exit
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
James May hints he will not continue on Top Gear without Jeremy Clarkson
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
David Cameron calls Labour 'hopeless, sneering socialists' while announcing 7-day NHS plans
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
Revealed: Putin's army of pro-Kremlin bloggers