Byron Easy by Jude Cook
|Byron Easy by Jude Cook|
|Genre: Literary Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: A man sits on a train and pours his memories and thoughts out to us. Sound a bit boring? When the man in question is Byron Easy, boredom isn't on the cards. He's a wonderful travelling companion who will take you through happy, sad and exasperated to a final destination of time well spent.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 512||Date: February 2013|
|Publisher: William Heinemann|
Byron Easy is a 30-year-old poet and product of a failed marriage who, in turn, has a failed marriage of his own. He works in a shop whilst waiting to be discovered as a poet. How did his depression-tinted life reach this point? Once there was hope, love and many good times and, as he sits on a train travelling to his mother's for Christmas with a bag full of money, he reflects and ponders while trying to escape something more tangible and dangerous than the past.
You just know a novel is going to be good when it wins awards even before it was finished. In the case of Byron Easy, its musician author Jude Cook was proud recipient of The Writers and Artists' Yearbook competition prize after only submitting an extract. Admittedly not every extract grows up into a readable novel but in the case of this debut author, we have nothing to worry about. This is a guy who some are already comparing to Philip Roth no less.
Byron, who narrates his own story in flashback, is a refreshing voice that allows Jude to make full use of his English Lit degree. This isn't a 'trying too hard' lit though, more of a stretching and curving of language in thought provoking mental images, like the description of a woman's ample bosom, testifying that you could stack a dinner service on there and still have room for a toaster. Comedic moments like this come as a perfect contrast to the equally well wrapped poignancy and, indeed the tears. (Yes, I cried yet again!)
This life is recounted conversationally as Byron shares thoughts that have been waiting like flash floods finding their way out of a broken dam. Through his words we meet people like friend and boss Martin, the streetwise Rudi and Mandy-the-Greek-ex-wife and error of his ways. (Even Mike Tyson would have thought twice about meeting her in a dark alley!) The fact that Easy's first words of love in the novel tell us about Concepcion, an ironically named dog, sums up his marriage in a nutshell. His life with Mandy may have lacked something in the everlasting love department but it didn't lack a darker side for which he never signed up.
Byron suffers from depression (as well as having dipsomaniacal tendencies) and the author understands. He realises how it colours life with a dank darkness and uses this realisation to provide us with a real human meaning that Byron comes over as very real and compelling. Sometimes he's seemingly self-obsessed, sometimes pithily witty, but there's always a wistfulness and sadness dripping from his words. As an example, I defy anyone not to laugh at his father's comment on Ghandi, even though while laughing we realise that Byron had hoped for so much more from his dad; fathering for instance.
This is a very long and densely written novel but don't let that put you off. Byron quickly got under my skin in a good way, making the journey to the end entertaining and rewarding, tears and all.
If you've enjoyed this, then perhaps you'd like to see if the comparison is justified and try Nemesis by Philip Roth.
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