Hutchinson £9.99

The Moment, By Douglas Kennedy

An ill-advised romance and an escape to the city

Douglas Kennedy's tenth novel, The Moment, finds the bestselling author flexing his muscles and playing to all his strengths.

Kennedy, like William Boyd and Paul Watkins, has always managed to walk that precarious tightrope of credibility between the twin towers of popular and literary fiction. And like his peers, he has his own distinct leitmotif. While Boyd is intrigued by the vagaries of identity and Watkins with adventure, Kennedy is focused on escapology. His narrators are frequently in flight; from domestic harnesses, marital discord, political ruts and fiscal dilemmas.

"I've always wanted to escape," says The Moment's protagonist, Thomas Nesbitt. "It's an urge I've had from the age of eight onwards, when I first discovered the pleasures of evasion." At the opening, Thomas is hammered by a particularly grim instant, when he is served his divorce papers at his Maine hideaway. This is quickly followed by a blast from his past, when a parcel arrives from his German ex-love, Petra Dussman. We're then taken back a quarter of a century to Thomas's stay in the Cold War frost of 1980s Berlin, where he hopes to write an opus on the city's split predicaments. The lives of others swiftly intrude.

To get a feel for Berlin's underbelly, Thomas takes lodgings with Alistair Fitzsimons-Ross, an Irish aristocratic artist in the Francis Bacon mould. A job at the western propagandist station Radio Liberty provides an income and an obsessive love affair: Petra is a brooding translator with dangerous links to the GDR. The passage of time and the wrench of passion cut through this entertaining novel like the wall separating the city.

If the amorous interludes prove a touch queasy, there's plenty of good writing to make up for it. Kennedy is particularly adept at capturing the ugliness of modern life. Thomas witnesses his mother "commit suicide on the installment plan, courtesy of cigarettes" and a grunge club amounts to "a copulative phantasmagoria". Seamy characters prove equally well judged. Alistair is a fantastic creation: a junkie who is impeccably house proud. "You can destroy your family fortune," says Alistair. "You can kill all the things you love, but never, never, appear in public with an unpressed pair of trousers and scuffed shoes." His self-created ennui is fully rounded in a way that Thomas's love affair with Petra isn't.

Kennedy has been hoist with his own petard. His breakthrough novel, 2001's The Pursuit of Happiness, saw him conjure a tragic love story out of the darkest recesses of the McCarthy witch-hunts, but its success saw him tagged as a romantic novelist. His books were rejacketed with female-friendly covers, and each new novel has a romance jimmied in. However, Kennedy is a particularly masculine writer. He captures with acuity men's self-destructive nature and the eddies in which husbands, fathers and sons find themselves caught.

When Kennedy escapes from the choke-hold of his own success, he provides more than just a well crafted page-turner. The Woman in the Fifth (soon to hit the cinemas with Kristin Scott Thomas as the titular femme fatale) is a good example. In that book, he reworked his runaway narrative into a Gallic take on a Henry James ghost story. The Moment remains a great read but I can't help thinking there are better things to come from this fine raconteur, if he can only eschew the demands of his publishers. That would be a great escape.

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year


Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk