Linguistic legerdemain enlivens this short, sharp, often funny, occasionally moving novel about a British screenwriter who, when told he has six months to live, sets about writing a novel. Best known for the movie Aliens with a Human Heart, Charlie finds himself in his final days alienated from his ex-wife (who keeps their London house even though her spiritual home is Tibet), his New York agent, and his friends. Moreover, throughout his travels, he is too restless to stay in his house in St. Tropez, or a luxury Monte Carlo hotel, or Toulon’s red light district, or the desert, holding fast to two obsessions: longing to reconnect with his daughter and a determination to write something important. Interspersed with Charlie’s personal narrative are excerpts from his novel, a third-person description of people meeting on a train after a conference on consciousness. Cross-references abound: the hero of Charlie’s novel is named Patrick (a nod to St. Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose series), fellow travellers Crystal and Peter (in the novel within the novel) appeared in St. Aubyn’s novel, On the Edge, and Charlie’s novel’s tentative title is On the Train. Both novels provide laugh-out-loud moments, as St. Aubyn remains the preeminent satirist of a meaningless New Age search for meaning. What makes this effort compelling is Charlie’s painfully honest, unremittingly self-aware account of his emotional journey, drawing readers down with him into a “narrowing funnel of time.” (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 06/15/2015 Release date: 09/01/2015 Genre: Fiction
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