Set almost exclusively in an underground London lavatory where ""cottaging""--illicit assignations between men--is popular, Collins's brief novel explores British attitudes toward race, class and sexuality. Ezekial (""Ez"") Murphy, a West Indian immigrant, begins work with two senior attendants, Jason and Reynolds, who are also non-native Londoners. The cottaging soon becomes enough of a problem that the attendants, ""denizens of a separate republic,"" are told that they must either discourage the anonymous sexual liaisons or the restrooms will be shut down and their jobs terminated. When they take measures, however, traffic--and therefore income--is reduced considerably, creating a different set of problems. Collins tells much of the story through dialogue, in a lilting, effortless patois that serves as shorthand for Ez and his co-workers. Collins's prose is economical, its rhythms rapid, though its very tightness sometimes threatens to squeeze Ez's observations to invisibility. Bristling with invention as it explores the different ways people act out their lives, the novel is a worthy follow-up to Collins's The Rationalist, which was nominated for the 1993 Booker Prize. (Apr.) FYI: The Rationalist is to be made into a film directed by Michael Radford (Il Postino).
Reviewed on: 03/31/1997 Release date: 04/01/1997 Genre: Fiction