Macmillan £14.99

The Opposite Bastard, By Simon Packham

A ghastly cast of oddballs makes a seductive read

Timothy Salt, a "resting" actor ("Nigh on twenty years in the acting profession had given me a solid grounding in DHSS form filling"), has exhausted the patience of the authorities. He is assigned as carer to a brilliant quadriplegic, whose name, Michael Owen, its owner bitterly resents. Michael has made it to Oxford, where everyone is keen to meet him, though not to get to know him. Philip Sydney, a posh boy with a curious hostility to poshness, seizes on Michael for the lead in his avant-garde, hopelessly amateur production of Hamlet. He ropes in a fellow student, Anna Jenkins, sweet, daffy and uncertain, as the ideal Ophelia. So, Philip wants Anna (in every sense); Anna wants Philip (romantically); Timothy wants a break, and sees Michael getting it. Michael, the gruff, still centre of this self-centered world, just wants to have an orgasm.

Michael calls himself " the quad", the "crip", or "wheelchairboy", and refers to his "spaz-chariot". Timothy, on whom Michael has bestowed the caustic sobriquet "De Niro", tenderly refers to his charge as "Ironside", or, for variation, "raspberry ripple". As for Philip Sydney, his language is so free of sensitivity that it would be pointless to quote from it.

At this point, up pops Nikki Hardbody, a television director, who wants to film the making of the production. She has two talents: she can charm the pants off any male present, and make even the kindest people perform prodigies of tastelessness.

Timothy feels the last of his little fire being stolen by Michael, and when Michael turns out to be a compelling Hamlet and Anna is rather drawn to him, he decides that something must be done. The failure of his scheme, and of Philip's, and of Nikki's, forces him to all the best decisions.

This book overturns a commonplace of literature: that you must care about the characters to care about the story. You don't care about these characters at all, but somehow you care about how they'll end up.

The ending, or epilogue, as the author chooses to call it, wraps everything up in a cocoon of fairytale. Yes, the ends are tied; yes, true love prevails; yes, redemption is reached (though Philip is left out of the dance). All of this is plausible, but a bit rushed. Nevertheless, this novel is seductive.

Click here to purchase the book

Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
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.

    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test