Tuesday, 22 February 2011


I've just finished reading Stephen Benatar's extraordinary novel, When I was Otherwise. Told largely through dialogue, but also graced by passages of quietly witty narration, the book tells the stories of three main characters. Dan - unassuming, straightforward, kind-hearted, but naive: Marsha - who clumsily attempts the roles of coquette and model wife with equal, tragi-comic results and Daisy, whose witty, waspish, overwhelming character is belied by a failure to construct an emotionally or practically rewarding life. The novel both teases and involves the reader as it makes chronological jumps to unravel the twisted skein of relationships between the three protagonists, making the book an engaging puzzle as well as a compelling read.

Benatar's gift for credible dialogue is astonishing, and he is able to bring to life and develop characters very powerfully in this way, creating scenes and atmospheres which encompass many moods, from the dark and bleak to the joyful. The book is forensic in its analysis of the blessings and pitfalls of human life, especially where growing old is concerned, but wears its author's talents very lightly, the style never seeming forced or contrived.

For anyone who loves to witness the English language being well used, and who revels in the rounded and moving depiction of characters, this is a book not to miss.

Our edition will be published in late March this year.


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