From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. The most remarkable thing about this extraordinary debut novel is not that the author is 72 years old; it is in the risks Chadwick, a retired civil servant, takes and brings off with astute craftsmanship and touching sincerity. The narrator, Tom Ripple, whose life we follow from the 1970s into the 21st century, is a lower-middle-class Englishman devoid of charm, intellectual curiosity and emotional warmth. Only gradually does the reader come to understand why Ripple's responses are stunted, why his preferred mode of communication is through excruciatingly bad puns and double entendres and why he subsists on a steady diet of television action films and paperback thrillers. When his wife leaves him, taking their two children, he is resigned to loneliness. As the years pass, Ripple cautiously engages in new relationships; he acquires the knack for tender paternal love and true friendship, and he develops an appreciation of music and books that brings him joy. Throughout, he continues to seek meaning in a postmodern world. Chadwick's almost seamlessly subtle portrait of Ripple gathers depth and momentum as the narrative progresses. In the end, Ripple concludes, with typical modesty, that it is "the basic experiences [of life], the ordinary moments of affection and beauty and common kindness that are infinitely precious." It's not an earthshaking thought, but it signifies the metamorphosis of an empty, soulless man into a hero for our times. Agent, Zoe Pagnamenta
. (June 1)
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Returning from a trip abroad, Tom Ripple, the diarist narrator of this lengthy début, reflects, "I seem mainly to have recorded trivia, like someone who witnesses an epic battle and sees only the surrounding scenery." Trivia, indeed, consumes many of Tom's musings, but Chadwick's achievement is such that Ripple's small thoughts—slight observations, petty miseries, daily regrets—come to seem worthy of center stage. From young parenthood to early retirement and beyond, Tom gives a painstaking, and often profoundly unflattering, account of his inner life. He loathes his wife and his boss, feels baffled by his children, and lusts after almost every female form. As time passes, however, his understanding is deepened by both loss and success. Following him on this journey may require more stamina than some readers can spare, but, as in life, to reach the end is to complete a story at once ordinary and unique.
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