IT'S ALL RIGHT NOW
The most remarkable thing about this extraordinary debut novel is not that the author is 72 years old; it is in the risks Chadwick, a retired civil servant, takes and brings off with astute craftsmanship and touching sincerity. The narrator, Tom Ripple, whose life we follow from the 1970s into the 21st century, is a lower-middle-class Englishman devoid of charm, intellectual curiosity and emotional warmth. Only gradually does the reader come to understand why Ripple's responses are stunted, why his preferred mode of communication is through excruciatingly bad puns and double entendres and why he subsists on a steady diet of television action films and paperback thrillers. When his wife leaves him, taking their two children, he is resigned to loneliness. As the years pass, Ripple cautiously engages in new relationships; he acquires the knack for tender paternal love and true friendship, and he develops an appreciation of music and books that brings him joy. Throughout, he continues to seek meaning in a postmodern world. Chadwick's almost seamlessly subtle portrait of Ripple gathers depth and momentum as the narrative progresses. In the end, Ripple concludes, with typical modesty, that it is "the basic experiences [of life], the ordinary moments of affection and beauty and common kindness that are infinitely precious." It's not an earthshaking thought, but it signifies the metamorphosis of an empty, soulless man into a hero for our times. Agent, Zoe Pagnamenta . (June 1)
FYI: Chadwick was inspired by Joseph Heller's novel Something Happens, but in many ways Tom Ripple is a mirror image of William Boyd's protagonist in Any Human Heart, albeit from a lower social class.