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'Some three months after returning to England, and having at last completed that collection of material that, once assembled in a book, must serve to transform a respectable career into a monument -something so comprehensive and final, this was my plan, as to be utterly irreftuable - I received, while standing as chance would have it at the reception desk of the Rembrandt Hotel, Knightsbridge, the phonecal that informed me of my son's suicide.' So unfolds the opening sentence of Tim Park's tenth novel. But why, on receiving this terrible news, does Christopher Burton immediately decide that he must leave his Italian wife of almost thirty years standing? Why does he find it so difficult to focus on his grief for his son? Burton feels his pious, raffish and mercurial wife gave him his life in Italy and his career as the foremost journalist on Italian affairs. But surely she ia also the person who has made life impossible for him. Was their son somehow a victim of their explosive love and hate? Or is that thought simply the expression of a deep paranoia?

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780436220883
ISBN-10: 0436220881
Format: Hardback
(225mm x 142mm x 25mm)
Pages: 256
Imprint: Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 2-Sep-1999
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Reviews

UK Kirkus Review » This is the most gruelling book I've read in a long time. Imagine the worst anxiety dream you've ever had and raise it to the power ten, and you might get some ideas of the almost unbearably relentless and claustrophobic experience offered by Tim Parks's novel. 'Some three moneths after returning to England, and having at last completed - with the galling exception of the Andreotti interview - that collection of material that, once assembled in a book, must serve to transform a respectable career into a monument - something so comprehensive and final, this was my plan, as to be utterly irrefutable - I received, while standing as chance would have it at the reception desk of the Rembrandt Hotel, Knightsbridge, a place emblematic, if you will, both of my success in one field and my failure in another, the phone-call that informed me of my son's suicide.' This characteristically mannered and disjunctive sentence introduces the reader both to the narrator of Destiny, the expatriate British expert on Italian affairs Christopher Burton, and to the precipitating event of this journey into his personal heart of darkness. It turns out that Burton's son was not only a paranoid schizophrenic confined to a mental institution, but that he was probably having an affair with his step-sister, an adopted Ukrainian girl who loathes Burton's wife Mara and has just broken up with her plodding Italian husband. Mara in turn has a thing for her husband's principal professional rival, while Burton has been consoling himself with a certain Karen, who is half-black and hot in the sack. Everyone is very, very unhappy. Technically, this is a brilliant self-portrait of a charmless, self-aggrandizing obsessive going through a nightmare mid-life crisis. Parks seems to take an almost sadistic pleasure in tormenting his characters, and even the hint of deliverance at the very end is heavily qualified. Not for the faint of heart. Review by Michael Dibdin, whose latest books include 'Blood Rain'. (Kirkus UK)


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