Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Goodness!

Some time ago, I think, I started reading Tim Parks' novel Goodness.  Apparently I didn't finish it; in fact I may not have got very far with it at all, as the only bit I remembered when I started reading it again a day or so ago, was the beginning.

Like other books by Parks it's subtle in its approach, with any number of twists and turns between the main characters - not in terms of plot but in terms of reactions to each other, and in the ways they hurt or are loving to each other.   There's also Parks' wit and humour - not laugh-out-loud stuff, but wry and witty.

The story is told by George, an upwardly-mobile young man whose life and marriage comes to a major crunch point about half way through the novel - I won't tell you what that is, but I didn't expect it.   We've already seen George's selfishness raging through the book - 'raging' might be a bit strong - outwardly he's a well-behaved Englishman; it's inside where all the raging is going on, and we're privy to it.

The climax of the book is superbly written, and suspenseful in a surprising way.   And then there's the Epilogue, which takes the story off into another realm altogether.   Parks takes your breath away with this one.

The book is essentially moral in tone; it's George's struggle with his own morality and with the faith of others and their sometimes insane optimism that makes it so readable.   The Daily Mail described it as a 'one-sitting book' and that's just about it.  The only reason I didn't read it in one sitting was because I was reading it late at night and was too tired to continue.

PS This cover isn't on my copy of the book and seems to indicate a book that isn't quite the one Parks has written, one that's much more severe in tone.   The cover on my copy, published by Vintage, leaves much more to the imagination, but is still effective. 

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