That Mark Haddon's first book after The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a book of poetry will perhaps come as a surprise to his legions of fans; that it is also one of such virtuosity and range will simply astonish them. The Talking Horse and the Sad Girl and the Village Under the Sea reveals a poet of great versatility and formal talent: all the gifts so admired in Haddon's prose are in strong evidence here - the humanity of his voices, the dark humour and the uncanny ventriloquism - but Haddon is also a writer of considerable seriousness, lyric power and surreal invention. Here are bittersweet love-lyrics, lucid and bold new versions of Horace, comic set-pieces, lullabies, wry postmodern shenanigans (including a note from the official board of censors on "18" certificate poetry), and an entire John Buchan novel condensed to five pages. The Talking Horse and the Sad Girl and the Village Under the Sea will consolidate his reputation as our most powerful myth-weavers and spell-makers, as well as one of the most outrageous and freewheeling imaginations at work in contemporary literature.
The latest offering from Mark Haddon (of Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time fame):
"At fifty-seven, George is settling down to a comfortable retirement, building a shed in his garden, reading historical novels, listening to a bit of light jazz. Then Katie, his unpredictable daughter, announces that she is getting remarried, to Ray. Her family is not pleased - as her brother Jamie observes, Ray has 'strangler's hands'. Katie can't decide if she loves Ray, or loves the way he cares for her son Jacob, and her mother Jean is a bit put out by the way the wedding planning gets in the way of her affair with one of her husband's former colleagues. And the tidy and pleasant life Jamie has created crumbles when he fails to invite his lover, Tony, to the dreaded nuptials.
Unnoticed in the uproar, George discovers a sinister lesion on his hip and quietly begins to lose his mind."
Just finished reading this, and it has kept me occupied on the train for the past two weeks. Not at all like "Curious Incident" - except for the short chapters which are very helpful for stopping just when the train arrives. Haddon tells the story from the point of view of each of member of the family and in this way highlights the many and varied ways families fail to communicate with each other and the inevitable dramas that result. The running thread of George "losing his mind" is difficult reading at times as it is hard to identify with him. But it is convincing nonetheless. My one criticism is that the end is a bit of an anticlimax. It just kind of comes to a stop.
Look forward to seeing what others who have read it think...