Tuesday, 6 April 2010
Skin Lane by Neil Bartlett
Skin Lane is the second book I am participating in with 'Not the TV Book Club', the discussion for this isn’t until the 11th but I hate a deadline so always try to finish early. I’ll be putting more in-depth comments on the actual discussion on the 11th as this is the sort of book which you want to discuss spoilers.
This book is set in the late 60s in London and follows Mr F, a middle aged man living a very solitary existence. He runs his life in a series of set routines, always catching the same train every day to work, walking the same route and listening to the same radio stations etc. One day he starts to have a disturbing dream which becomes a reoccurring one. This dream is so disturbing that he begins to lapse concentration in his day to day life and ends up going on his own personal journey to try to find out the meaning of this.
The book is called Skin Lane after an area in London where the fur trade was based. Mr F is a ‘cutter’ he selects and cuts the furs before they are transferred to the ladies who then stitch them together. By the time the furs reach Mr F the animals have long been killed so we do not get any descriptions on this, we do however get descriptions on how furs are selected for each garment, the whole range of furs available at that time and why a simple coat is so expense. All of this is woven into the plot and at times added in order to add to the mounting tension as is the unbearable heat of the summer that most of the book is set.
In terms of plot not a huge amount happens yet the book is filled with gripping tension which is full of suspense. It’s also quite frightening in places as I tried to perceive what direction the book was going in. The descriptions of London in the book are wonderful and I was able to imagine the setting easily, the descriptions are not of London today (of which I am familiar) but of a post war late 60s London. Mr F makes for a fascinating character made even more so by the fact that he does not voice or talk about his emotions at all, he is practically incapable of self analysis. We gain insight into his character by his actions and the way he deals with situations which sometimes become unbearable for him.
I did like this book but I wouldn’t say I really liked it; it’s certainly interesting and quite different to a lot of books I have read. A great choice for a book club as I’m sure it will bring up some interesting discussions.
Posted by Jess