Australia, Author, Book review, Elliot Perlman, Fiction, literary fiction, Publisher, Reading Projects, satire, Setting, TBR2020, Vintage Australia

‘Maybe the Horse Will Talk’ by Elliot Perlman

Fiction – paperback; Vintage Australia; 352 pages; 2019.

Elliot Perlman is one of my favourite authors. I have read and much admired his trio of novels — Three Dollars (1998), Seven Types of Ambiguity (2003) and The Street Sweeper (2012) — so was looking forward to his new novel, Maybe the Horse Will Talk, published in Australia at the end of last year. (The title refers to a children’s fable that suggests anything is possible.)

A satire about corporate greed, it’s set in Melbourne’s cut-throat legal world and addresses all kinds of relevant, contemporary issues including misogyny, sexism and sexual harassment in the workplace.

But for all its humour and clever, witty dialogue, the novel has a serious underbelly. It could, in fact, be seen as one of the first (or certainly the first I know about) that explores the #metoo movement, possibly before that became a “thing”.

Struggling to stay afloat

The tale centres on a mature age second-year lawyer and former high school English teacher, Stephen Maserov, who works for a big legal firm — hilariously called Freely Savage Carter Blanche — that specialises in construction law.

Stephen is hanging on by his fingertips. His wife has booted him out of the family home but he returns every night to tuck his two young boys in to bed, and at work he’s at risk of losing his job — a job that he hates but  needs to pay the mortgage.

One day, struck by inspiration, desperation and daring, he finds a solution to his problem: he offers to help a client make a series of sexual harassment claims go away. This sounds morally dubious and completely unethical, but Stephen has a cunning plan that he hopes will provide a win-win situation for both the client and the women making the claims. And along the way it will allow him to make a name for himself at the law firm, thereby saving his job and perhaps even salvaging his marriage.

Satire with a serious edge

The story has a relatively convoluted plot, is peopled by a series of loathsome characters with wonderful names — Mike Crispin “Crispy” Hamilton, for instance — and much of its momentum relies heavily on dialogue to propel things forward. The dialogue is smart and snappy and often laugh out loud funny.

But lest anyone think Stephen — or the author for that matter — is making light of sexual harassment, the story hammers home some salient points about who holds power in the workplace and the ways in which women are sometimes viewed by their male counterparts.

As one female character explains it, in the corporate world men fear “being frozen out, passed over, overworked, under-utilised, humiliated, being fired and ultimately unemployed”. Women fear this too. But women also have to contend with so much more in the workplace. She has…

…her clothes discussed by her male colleagues, her appearance, her body shape, changes in her body shape, her reaction to sexual innuendo, to off-colour jokes about sex, unwanted, unasked-for flirting and her reaction to that, fear of casual bodily contact all the way along the continuum, offers to trade sexual favours for career advancement and the consequences of rejecting them, blackmail and every conceivable permutation of sexual harassment and assault all the way down the line to rape.  There’s no overtime, no salary, no perks of the job that make any of that worthwhile.

The details of one particular sexual harassment case are stomach-churningly gruesome. Perlman doesn’t pull his punches.

But there’s another important point he’s making here, too, because Stephen’s unhappiness is also the unforeseen byproduct of inequality between the sexes. He works around the clock and sees so little of his family that his wife no longer wants to see him at all. His love for his children is superseded by his “need” to put work before family; to do anything else would be seen as a weakness.

Too long?

Admittedly, I didn’t really fall in love with this book. Yes, the plot is a bit far-fetched and it relies too much on coincidence to make work, but that didn’t really bother me. The issues covered appealed to me and I like reading books about office life as so few seem to be written about this topic.

And yet I just couldn’t properly engage with the characters. I struggled to properly immerse myself in the story and I’m not sure why. Perhaps it was overly long and the pace wasn’t fast enough for me.

Whatever the case, Maybe the Horse Will Talk remains a fine satire about important issues. It has some funny comic moments, is deftly plotted and features some sparkling dialogue. It’s a good book, but not a great one.

For other reviews of this novel, please see Lisa’s at ANZLitLovers and Tony’s at Tony’s Reading List. Note, I can’t find a UK publication date for this book, but a Kindle edition seems to be available in the US.

This is my 1st book for #TBR2020 in which I plan to read 20 books from my TBR over the next 6 months. Any books in my ownership that were purchased before the end of 2019 are eligible.


Book lists

6 highly anticipated Australian novels I can’t wait to read

The next month or two looks pretty exciting in terms of new Australian literary novels being published — and for once I’ll be on the right side of the planet to buy them when they come out.

Here are six books I’m eagerly awaiting, namely because I’ve read and loved other books by these authors in the past.

They have been arranged in alphabetical order according to author’s surname. Please note that the blurbs, some of which I’ve cut slightly, have been taken direct from the publishers’ own websites, as have the publication dates (which are subject to change).

Silver by Chris Hammer

For half a lifetime, journalist Martin Scarsden has run from his past. But now there is no escaping. He’d vowed never to return to his hometown, Port Silver, and its traumatic memories. But now his new partner, Mandy Blonde, has inherited an old house in the seaside town and Martin knows their chance of a new life together won’t come again.
Martin arrives to find his best friend from school days has been brutally murdered, and Mandy is the chief suspect. With the police curiously reluctant to pursue other suspects, Martin goes searching for the killer. And finds the past waiting for him.

Published by Allen & Unwin in Australia on 1 October. Due to be published by Wildfire in the UK on 9 January 2020.

There Was Still Love by Favel Parrett

Prague, 1938: Eva flies down the street from her sister. Suddenly a man steps out. Eva runs into him, hits the pavement hard. His anger slaps Eva, but his hate will change everything, as war forces so many lives into small, brown suitcases.
Prague, 1980: No one sees Ludek. A young boy can slip right under the heavy blanket that covers this city — the fear cannot touch him. Ludek is free. And he sees everything. The world can go to hell for all he cares because Babi is waiting for him in the warm flat.
Melbourne, 1980: Mala Li ka’s grandma holds her hand as they climb the stairs to their third floor flat. Here, Mana and Bill have made a life for themselves and their granddaughter. A life imbued with the spirit of Prague and the loved ones left behind.
Favel Parrett’s deep emotional insight shines through in this love letter to the strong women who bind families together, despite dislocation and distance. 

Published by Hachette Australia in Australia on 24 September. Due to be published by Sceptre in the UK on 20 February 2020.

Maybe the Horse will Talk by Elliot Perlman

Stephen Maserov has problems. A onetime teacher, married to fellow teacher Eleanor, he has retrained and is now a second-year lawyer working at mega-firm Freely Savage Carter Blanche. Despite toiling around the clock to make budget, he’s in imminent danger of being downsized. And to make things worse, Eleanor, sick of single-parenting their two young children thanks to Stephen’s relentless work schedule, has asked him to move out. To keep the job he hates, pay the mortgage and salvage his marriage, he will have to do something strikingly daring, something he never thought himself capable of. But if he’s not careful, it might be the last job he ever has…

Published by Penguin in Australia on 1 October. There is no date available for the UK — as yet.

Bruny by Heather Rose

The new novel from the author of the award-winning The Museum of Modern Love.
A right-wing US president has withdrawn America from the Middle East and the UN. Daesh has a thoroughfare to the sea and China is Australia’s newest ally. When a bomb goes off in remote Tasmania, Astrid Coleman agrees to return home to help her brother before an upcoming election. But this is no simple task. Her brother and sister are on either side of politics, the community is full of conspiracy theories, and her father is quoting Shakespeare. Only on Bruny does the world seem sane — until Astrid discovers how far the government is willing to go.

Published by Allen & Unwin in Australia on 30 September. There is no date available for the UK — as yet.

Damascus by Christos Tsiolkas

Christos Tsiolkas’ new novel Damascus takes as its subject nothing less than events surrounding the birth and establishment of the Christian church. Based around the gospels and letters of St Paul, and focusing on characters one and two generations on from the death of Christ, as well as Paul (Saul) himself, Damascus nevertheless explores the themes that have always obsessed Tsiolkas as a writer: class, religion, masculinity, patriarchy, colonisation, exile; the ways in which nations, societies, communities, families and individuals are united and divided. 
In Damascus, Tsiolkas has written an historical novel of immense power and an unflinching dissection of doubt and faith, tyranny and revolution, and cruelty and sacrifice.

Published by Allen & Unwin in Australia on 28 October. Due to be published by Atlantic in the UK on 5 March 2020.

The Weekend by Charlotte Wood

Four older women have a lifelong friendship of the best kind: loving, practical, frank and steadfast. But when Sylvie dies, the ground shifts dangerously for the remaining three. Can they survive together without her? 
They are Jude, a once-famous restaurateur, Wendy, an acclaimed public intellectual, and Adele, a renowned actress now mostly out of work. Struggling to recall exactly why they’ve remained close all these years, the grieving women gather for Christmas at Sylvie’s old beach house — not for festivities, but to clean the place out before it is sold. 
Without Sylvie to maintain the group’s delicate equilibrium, frustrations build and painful memories press in. Fraying tempers, an elderly dog, unwelcome guests and too much wine collide in a storm that brings long-buried hurts to the surface — and threatens to sweep away their friendship for good.

Published by Allen & Unwin in Australia on 15 October. Due to be published by W&N in the UK on 25 June 2020.

Are there any on this list that have piqued your interest?

10 books, Book lists

10 (more) of my favourite novels from Australia

10-booksTo mark Australia Day (26 January), I thought I would put together a list of some of my favourite Australian novels.

This isn’t the first time I’ve done this: back in 2005 I published a list entitled 10 of my favourite novels from Australia. But a lot has changed since then: my tastes have broadened, I have better access to books (thanks to the internet) and I’m more aware of new Australian fiction at the time of release (again, thanks to the internet and especially to the Australian bloggers I follow).

Since 2005, I’ve read more than 100 Australian books and these have spanned everything from historical fiction to psychological thrillers, much-loved classics to contemporary literary fiction. Gone are the days when I thought Australian novels only revolved around convicts or pioneers!

This new list features 10 of my favourite reads from the past decade. The books have been arranged in alphabetical order by author surname. You can click on each book title to read my review in full.

‘The Burial’ by Courtney Collins (2013)

The Burial by Courtney Collins

The Burial
 tells the tale of Jessie Hickman, a female bushranger who rustles horses and duffs cattle, in the years after the Great War. Part adventure tale, part romance, part Western (but without the gunslinging), it’s a dramatic story told in a visual, exhilarating — and memorable — way.  Jessie, who is based on a real female bushranger, is wonderful company — feisty, unafraid, daring and brave — and I loved spending time with her.

‘The Narrow Road to the Deep North’ by Richard Flanagan (2014)

Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

I’ve read all of Richard Flanagan’s novels and reviewed most of them, but this book was so profoundly moving I couldn’t find the words to do it justice, so instead of reviewing it on this blog I just went around and told everyone they had to read it! Of course, I could have chosen almost any one of Flanagan’s novels to include here, but The Narrow Road to the Deep North, which won the Man Booker Prize in 2014, spoke to me in a way few books over the past decade have done so. It’s an unforgettable account of one man’s experience as a doctor in a POW camp and the long-lasting impact of what happened to him and his friends during that time. It’s also a tragic love story between a man and the woman he wasn’t supposed to fall in love with.

‘Five Bells’ by Gail Jones (2011)

Five Bells by Gail Jones

Five Bells is set in Sydney on a single summer’s day in 2008. It tells the stories of four individual characters — Ellie, James, Catherine and Pei Xing — as they criss-cross the city. This is not a plot-driven novel, but one in which the characters’ inner lives take centre stage. I loved Jones’ rich use of language and the ways in which she plays with images and motifs throughout, and the stories stayed with me long after the final page. (As an aside, I could have easily chosen Jones’ Sixty Lights in this slot, which is another evocatively written story, but set in Victorian London, not contemporary Australia.)

‘Utopian Man’ by Lisa Lang (2010)

Utopian Man by Lisa Lang

Lisa Lang’s debut novel is a sheer delight from start to finish. The central character is Edward William (E.W.) Cole, a real life legendary eccentric who built a magnificent retail emporium in Melbourne during the 1880s. This included a fabulous three-storey book arcade, supposedly filled with a million books. The novel charts Coles’ life in two-yearly increments and shows how this extraordinary man, who championed equality and was exceedingly generous to all and sundry, always saw the good in people despite suffering small tragedies and scandals himself. It’s a charming read about a charming man, and I wish more people knew about it.

‘Seven Types of Ambiguity’ by Elliot Perlman (2005)

Seven Types of Ambiguity by Elliot Perlman

I have Eliot Perlman to thank for opening my eyes to a whole new world of Australian fiction for this is the book that made me realise there was more to Australian literature than novels about convicts and pioneers! Set in contemporary Melbourne, it showed me my home town in ways I’d never come across before in contemporary fiction. Admittedly very baggy and overwritten (I would level the same charge against all of Perlman’s novels even though I admire his work), I loved its breadth and scope: it’s a  psychological thriller, a court room drama, a romance, a satire, an insightful commentary on modern-day existence, morals and values, and a kind of literary juggernaut that borrows the title of a well-known non-fiction book by William Empson on literary criticism. Throw in politics, big business and prostitution and pretty much every genre and theme is covered here. What’s not to like?

‘The Shiralee’ by D’Arcy Niland (1955)

The Shiralee by D'Arcy Niland

The Shiralee counts up there as one of my top three Australian books of all time (the other two are George Johnston’s My Brother Jack and Randolph Stow’s The Merry-go-round in the Sea). It’s a wonderful tale set during the Great Depression about a swagman (an itinerant worker) who travels rural NSW in search of work accompanied by his four-year-old daughter, Buster, whom he initially regards as his “shiralee”, a slang word for burden. Six months earlier he “kidnapped” Buster from her city-based mother, after he discovered his wife in bed with another man, but this well-meaning act is now taking its toll: Buster talks too much and slows him down and he’s constantly worrying about how to feed and protect her. It’s very much a novel about father-daughter relationships, and provides a fascinating glimpse of a past way of life where friendship and camaraderie between people “on the road” was so vital to their survival.

‘Benang: From the Heart’ by Kim Scott (1999)


This book challenged me on many levels but left a deep impression on me. Essentially it is about Australia’s history of white subjugation of indigenous people. This deeply poignant and haunting story is narrated by Harvey, who is of aboriginal descent but has been raised to believe he is a white man because all the aboriginal blood has been bred out of him. But in being raised in one culture while forced to ignore another, Harvey feels that something is missing from his life — and this book is an attempt to reconnect with his ancestors and to try to understand why his grandfather was so keen to “breed out” the aboriginal blood in the family line. I came away from this book feeling a mixture of joy and sorrow, anger and regret. I still think about it four years down the line…

‘The Merry-Go-Round in the Sea’ by Randolph Stow (1965)

Merry go round in the sea by randolph stow

I loved this book so much I read it twice — and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve recommended it to people looking for a quintessential Australian read. Largely semi-autobiographical, it tells the story of Rob Coram, who is just six years old when the book opens, and his relationship with his older cousin, who joins the Army to fight in the Second World War. It’s a beautiful, somewhat nostalgic look at what it was like to grow up in one of the most remote areas on the planet, sandwiched between the desert and the Indian ocean, at a time when the war was raging in Europe, and the Japanese were getting closer and closer to invading Australian soil. It’s very much a coming-of-age story and has a truly authentic feel for the time and the place.

‘The Slap’ by Christos Tsiolkas (2009)

The cover of Christos Tsiolkas' acclaimed novel, The Slap.

Set in suburban Melbourne, The Slap is one of those bold, brash and visceral novels that stays with you long after the final page. The whole story unfurls from one seemingly minor incident at a family barbecue when a man slaps a child who is not his own. This one event has drastic repercussions on all of those people present. It tests friendships, marriages and family relationships, and it divides people into two distinct groups: those that think the child deserved it, and those that think the slap constitutes child abuse. I loved the scope and ambition of this novel (perhaps more than its execution) and raced through it in a matter of days. And the eight-part Australian TV adaptation is possibly the best thing to come out of Australia since Tsiolkas himself.

‘Eyrie’ by Tim Winton (2014)

Eyrie by Tim Winton

I’ve only read a handful of Tim Winton’s novels, but this one — his latest — is a brilliant look at contemporary Australia, awash with cash from the mining boom yet ethically and morally bankrupt. It tells the story of Tom Keely, a middle-aged spokesman for an environmental campaign group, who has lost his high-flying, highly pressurised job for daring to speak the truth. Now, holed up in a flat at the top of a grim high-rise residential tower, he lives like a recluse, until he becomes entwined in his neighbour’s messy life. What ensues is a bumpy — and seedy — ride,  far removed from his middle-class upbringing.  Despite Eyrie tackling some weighty subjects, it’s done with a lightness of touch and plenty of humour. I loved this book so much, I read it twice — in quick succession.

Have you read any of these books? Do you have a favourite Australian novel? Is anything missing from my list?

Australia, Author, Book review, Elliot Perlman, Faber and Faber, Fiction, literary fiction, Publisher, Setting

‘Three Dollars’ by Elliot Perlman


Fiction – paperback; Faber and Faber; 368  pages; 1999.

Eddie Harnovey, a 38-year-old chemical engineer, is married to a brilliant academic with whom he has a young daughter. He has a lovely house in the suburbs, a strong moral conscience and a kind, friendly nature. He is intelligent and well educated. Why, then, is his world falling around his feet? Why is he on the brink of bankruptcy with just $3 to his name?

This is the premise behind Elliot Perlman’s award-winning debut novel Three Dollars.

Essentially it charts the rise — and spectacular fall — of a young man, who could have had everything but looks set to lose it all, including his home and his marriage.

Set in Melbourne, Australia, during the economic rationalistic 1990s, it offers much commentary on our obsession with materialistic goods and the soulless nature of business and its pursuit of ever-increasing profit regardless of the environmental or social consequences. But it is also a look at how love can conquer all — as long as you have more than $3 to your name.

Overall, I much enjoyed this novel, reading it in the space of two days. As I mentioned when I reviewed Perlman’s Seven Types of Ambiguity earlier this year, it was refreshing to read an Australian novel set in modern times in a city I once lived and worked in.

Three Dollars is a serious book, with plenty of negative things to say about modern life, but this is tempered by a strong comedic element throughout. Some of the situations in which Eddie finds himself  border on being hilarious.

Genre-wise I’m not sure whether this book should be classed as a family drama, social realism, an environmental thriller, a love story or a black comedy. It pretty much covers all these bases with aplomb.

There were several things that grated though: the author’s tendency to editorialise; his over reliance on co-incidence to move the narrative along; and the use of overly long, convoluted sentences, a kind of literary vaudeville that cluttered what was otherwise a very
well written story.

All in all, a highly entertaining and intelligent read with believable characters and a rollicking good plot.

Three Dollars won the 1999 Betty Trask Prize and the 1998 Melbourne Age Book of the Year. It was made into a movie in 2005.

Australia, Author, Book review, Elliot Perlman, Faber and Faber, Fiction, literary fiction, Publisher, Setting

‘Seven Types of Ambiguity’ by Elliot Perlman


Fiction – paperback; Faber and Faber; 624  pages; 2005.

At last. A book by an Australian novelist that isn’t about convicts or the pioneers or soldiers heading off to the Great War. This one is, in fact, set in modern times — or the economic rationalistic 1990s anyway.

What’s more it’s set in the Australian city I know best — Melbourne — at a time when I was a resident. How wonderful to recognise names and places in the pages of this well-crafted novel: I have downed many an ice-cold beer at The Esplanade Hotel, drooled over the cakes that line the bakeries along St Kilda’s Acland Street, gone shopping (for books!) in Chapel Street, admired the mansions in Toorak, seen the beach at the end of Glenhuntly Road, walked along the streets of Sorrento.

American readers, British readers will not understand this, because they are collectively spoilt by so many modern novels set in their homelands. But for me, as an Australian, I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to recognise such places in the pages of a book that wasn’t non-fiction. It made the story all that more real, and all that more special, to me.

Seven Types of Ambiguity — if you have got past my rambling purple-prosed introduction — is described on the blurb as a “tale of obsessive love” but I think that’s too simplistic a summary. It’s about an unemployed teacher briefly abducting Sam, the seven-year-old son of an ex-girlfriend, and the consequences of that one misguided incident and how it impacts on so many different lives in so many different ways.

It’s also a psychological thriller, a court room drama, a romance, a satire, an insightful commentary on modern day existence, morals and values, and a kind of literary juggernaut that borrows the title of a well known non-fiction book by William Empson on literary criticism. Throw in politics, big business and prostitution and pretty much every genre and theme is covered here. You certainly can’t complain about its breadth of scope.

The tale is told from seven different perspectives: Simon Heywood, the kidnapper; Dr Alex Klima, the psychiatrist who treats Simon but crosses a professional line to become his patient’s best friend; Anna Geraghty, Simon’s ex-girlfriend and mother of the kidnapped child; Joe Geraghty, Anna’s stockbroker husband; Angelique, the prostitute who is Simon’s current girlfriend and through some weird coincidence is also linked to Joe, one of her clients; Dennis Mitchell, an analyst and colleague of Joe’s, who later hooks up with Angelique (are you following me?); and Rachael Klima, Alex’s daughter, who, through another weird coincidence, becomes Sam’s girlfriend. Strangely enough the only person who does not narrate his side of the story is Sam, the central figure of the book.

As one would expect from the novel’s title, the theme of ambiguity is a constant. Indeed Perlman plays many literary tricks so that upon reading each new part it takes two or three pages for the reader to figure out who the new narrator is. I initially found this annoying, but I grew to like the surprise — I could never guess correctly no matter how much I thought I understood the characters.

Perlman also has his characters constantly misunderstand each other in conversation through the use of ambiguous language. For instance, when Anna is called to discuss Sam’s misbehaviour at school as a result of the kidnapping, the teacher treads softly and then completely misunderstands everything Anna says to her.

‘What’s he done?’ I asked. (…)

‘Well, he’s been calling out a lot…lately.’

‘What do you mean, lately?’ I asked the young teacher.

‘Well, since the…since the troubles.’

Since ‘the troubles’, she had said, not being able to even say the word ‘kidnapping’, so afraid, as the school had informed us in a carefully worded letter, were they of saying anything that might cause us offence and provoke litigation.

‘What, he’s been calling out since the beginning of inter-religious hostilities in Ireland?’ It was an off-the-cuff smartarse remark of the kind Simon could’ve made. (…)

‘Pardon me?’ the young teacher asked, completely at a loss.

‘I’m sorry, you said since “the troubles”, which is the name given to the Catholic-Protestant conflict in Ireland. I’m sorry. I was just being flippant. Things have been–‘

‘No, I’m sorry, for my insensitivity. Geraghty? Of course, Sam Geraghty. I have to admit I’m not always up to date with my world events. Have you lost family recently in Northern Ireland? Did Sam know the deceased directly or is it a sort of…vicarious pain? We can schedule grief counselling if you like. It can be for the whole family if you would think it would help everyone…or anyone.’

And later, when Anna wants to check whether it is true that Simon once fell in the swimming pool and was rescued from drowning by Simon, who was stalking Anna at the time, her question is misunderstood by her young son.

‘Sam, you’ve never had an accident in the pool, have you?’


‘No, I didn’t think so.’

‘I haven’t, really, I haven’t.’

‘I believe you, Sam,’ I said, giving him a big hug. I didn’t want to release him.

‘I always go before I get in the pool.’

‘What, say that again, sweetie. What did you say?’

‘I don’t ever do it in the pool anymore.’

The book is littered with many, many more examples — too many to list here — although I had a lot of fun spotting them as I ploughed my way through this weighty book.

But the overriding message of Seven Types of Ambiguity is the ambiguity of human relationships and how two people in a relationship can interpret that relationship in entirely different ways through the prism of their own needs, desires and maturity.

For instance, we learn early on that Simon is obsessed with Anna, his ex-girlfriend, whom he is stalking. They have not been romantically involved for more than 10 years and yet he is still very much in love with her. It is creepy and skin-crawling stuff.  Later, when Anna narrates her part of the story, we get to find out exactly what she thinks of Simon – and let’s just say it wasn’t what I expected. So, perhaps too, Perlman is demonstrating that the reader’s relationship with fictional characters can be ambiguous too.

Despite my glowing five-star review, the book isn’t perfect. Sometimes the rehashing of scenes and conversations, albeit as seen from different points of view, grew wearisome. The voice and tone of each character was also remarkably similar, and some of the sentences were confusing and overly clunky. I also had trouble with the first chapter, not quite being able to work out who the narrator was, much less who he was addressing. And, finally, I found that I disliked Simon enormously despite the fact that most of the characters in this book seemed to like him very much. Why? He sounded like a pompous, too-clever-for-his-boots, obsessive, pain in the arse type of guy.

That said, I loved this amazing, brilliant and breath-taking book. I read it compulsively in just under a week, no mean feat for me, a slow and plodding reader at the best of times who usually squeezes in a 30 minute session before lights out each evening. But I found the story gripping, the characterisation impressive and the literary ‘acrobatics’ dazzling. More please!