Wednesday, 5 January 2011

A book a week in 2010: The Insult by Rupert Thomson

Languishing on our bookshelves, I discovered The Insult while clearing out clutter before Christmas. The other half had read it. It looked well thumbed so I guessed it was a good book.*

Rupert Thomson is an English author who has a decidedly European voice. This is partly explained by a well-travelled life, but I did read the book feeling like it was a very smart piece of commissioning of a foreign translation.

The Insult is about a man, Martin Blom, who is shot in the head in a car park, leaving him in hospital, permanently blind. However, he soon discovers he has a miraculous gift: he can see at night or in darkness. But his initial concerns about the doctor and his treatment continue to growth, even after he has been discharged and settled away from his family, making a fresh start in the city. It is only his search for the whereabouts of his on/off girlfriend that lead him to discover the truth about his condition and that of her family.

We never get to know why he was shot. That's not the point of the book. This is a story set in a twilight hinterland. It provides a startling perspective on what it might be like to lose your sight. You are never quite sure what is going on, but it makes for an engaging, macabre and slightly surreal read. Peopled by a range of shifty and bizarre characters who live on the fringe, it's set against a backdrop of the city in the dark and sulphurous country lakes.

The Insult is a bizarre read that I found strangely unsatisfying in the end. But this is not your average thriller.

(*Mark's enjoyment of a novel is always commensurate with the amount of physical interaction he has with it: pages turned down at the corner when he pops off to get a drink; spine broken into ridges across the cover; corners battered as it's carried around on his commute - you get the picture. This is in total contrast to me, borderline OCD, who groans in agony when they see someone folding a page.)

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