Thursday, 6 May 2010
A Short Gentleman by Jon Canter
The latest NTTVBG pick to be discussed on Sunday was A Short Gentleman by Jon Canter. This is a very different read to the other books for this club so far as its a more light hearted funny book.
The narrator of this book is a Robert Purcell, a barrister who is the quintessential English Gentleman. Born into a rich household, Robert had a privileged childhood during which he dreamed of one day emulating his father by becoming a judge, gaining a respectable wife and having two children; a boy and a girl. Quite early on in the narration we learn that Robert has committed a crime for which he has been sent to prison and thus his career and personal life has taken a nose dive. We do not learn what this crime is until the end of the book and it was great fun reading about Robert's life going according to plan before completely unravelling.
Robert is not a nice character, he's condescending, pompous, arrogant and a terrible snob. These are aspects of his personality of which he is very proud. So why did I like this book? Well because these attributes meant that the narrator was never 'self pitying' and also because it gave the narration its wit and humour.
'I've inherited my politics from my father. I believe in a free market but I also believe it's the primary duty of a political party to look after the poor. The poor must be fed and clothed and housed, though preferably not next door.'
He seems to be a man who reminisces constantly about a bizarre bygone era. An era which, in reality, probably didn't exist except in the minds of people suffering from a hopeless rose-tinted nostalgia for 'Englishness'.
He came from a time when such questions went unasked. A man could have a mistress and a wife, without the wife asking questions. A man could visit a prostitute once a week, without the wife accusing him of having 'intimacy issues',........A man could have a close male friend, without that friend insisting they walk down the aisle of the Church of St Elton the John.
I don't normally use quotations in my reviews (I consider it far too much effort) but I have here to give you an idea of the humour and narration throughout the book, some of which made me laugh out loud. By the end of the book I don't think I really cared what crime Robert had committed because that wasn't the reason I was turning the pages, in the end I was drawn in by the story which had become quite developed and I ended up warming to Robert if only because the other characters were so much worse but just as hilarious.
Posted by Jess