Thursday, 18 December 2008

Eli Gottlieb - Now You See Him (Serpent's Tail 2008)

In Eli Gottlieb's sophomore book, death is the catalyst for Nick Framingham's life to slowly and delicately unravel. When he was a child and a teenager, he hero-worshipped Rob Castor, even loved him in ways neither of them understood. He and Rob and Rob's sister belinda formed an intense bond that got through them through childhood and difficult parents and absent fathers. Rob's now dead and as Nick deals with the grief, his safe suburban middle-class life disintegrates around him. He has built himself into a shell while Rob has gone off to the big city and become a famous writer. Rob kills his cheating girlfriend then himself and now Nick deconstructs Rob's motivation and his final moments, flicks through the remnants of their friendship and tires his best to maintain his marriage despite his disinterest. As we progress through the book and his grief leads him to rekindle his affair with Rob's sister, we're drawn to a dark startling conclusion of sadness and morbid tension.

This is a simple book with big designs, skillful and suspense-ful. Each string of revelation comes with the right layer of subtlety and melancholy. This is a heart-wrenching book that never betrays its own quiet approach and smart language and dialogue. The ties of friendship, the bonds, the tricks of memory and the repressed nature of Nick all make for a beautiful read, sad yet tinged with the slight promise of hope throughout. Gottlieb paints his characters with subtle nuances and colours and the broad stroeks of the story play out in these quiet moments with well-depicted characters. Heartily recommended.

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