Wednesday, October 04, 2006

'Overtaken' by Alexei Sayle

4 October 2006

I had read and enjoyed Alexei Sayle's first book of short stories, 'Barcelona Plates' and was looking forward to this, his first novel. Having finished it I'm not quite sure what to make of it. The setting (a group of thirtysomething friends in the North West of England in the early years of the 21st century) and the style had me comparing it with Nick Hornby or John O'Farrell but Sayle takes us into darker territory: violence, revenge and grotesque characters. But there is also some really interesting stuff on the power of art, the nature of friendship, addiction, grief and guilt. He also has some great wordplay and running jokes which are subtle and easy to miss. Though there was humour he seems to have backed away from comic set-pieces. I read it very quickly and it held my attention but I felt a little disappointed at the end. I'm not sure whether the ending was a fantastic coup-de-theatre which I haven't yet understood or just a running out of steam. Intriguing, thought-provoking and unpredictable.



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