Monday, 28 July 2014

Book review: Eleven

Plenty of comedians double as novelists, and it seems when he's not being a likeable Welsh stand-up, Mark Watson has been one of them. Not many of his books seem to be available on kindle yet, which may be why I wasn't aware of them, but Eleven is. It's a sort-of rom-com about Xavier, an Australian radio DJ with a guilty secret in his past that's made him move to the UK. Here he's now a late-night phone-in show host with a dedicated listener base of insomniacs who like to call him up with their problems, but who in his personal life has a strict non-intervention policy that sometimes sees him letting things slide that he perhaps should have done something about.

One time he chooses not to intervene is when he sees a local boy being bullied. While the story continues to follow Xavier and the not-quite-romance he strikes up at a speed-dating evening, we also flash to different parts of London, following the consequences of his action, or lack of it, across eleven people. So the child's mother, a restaurant reviewer, is upset and writes a particularly harsh review, which puts the chef in a bad mood and makes him sack the boy who washes the dishes, and so on. As sometimes happens with writers who also do comedy for a living there's a dark side to the novel, a kind of fatalism in which he uses his writer's omniscience to tell us the fates of many of the characters years from now; and there's a trace of contempt for his lead character. That doesn't, though, stop the story from being interesting and cleverly put-together, and it left me wanting to read more of Watson's books.

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