Man, this book was a real slog to read. My first thought, when I finally finished it, was ‘thank goodness that’s over’ and my second thought was that I wanted to go online and read up other people’s interpretations of it because it was still swirling through my mind.
Spoiler alert – I’m going to discuss the whole book so if you don’t want to be spoiled you should look away now.
The premise of the book is that a world renowned concert pianist, Mr Ryder, arrives at an unnamed European town with a vague idea that he is giving a performance, but also a sort of important keynote speech at an event a couple of days later.
The whole book reads like a surreal anxiety dream, with impossible twists and turns, like the characters travel a long distance but end up where they started, or that one minute characters have never met, and the next they are sharing reminiscences from several mutual experiences. Mr Ryder is in a constant state of confusion and never seems to be sure where he should be and what he should be doing and anyway wherever he goes he is met with obstacles and set backs and new calls on his attention. He meets many characters who could all represent aspects of his own psyche or life experience – a small boy who feels protective of his mother and ignored by his father, a young man whose budding musical career is belittled by his parents, an old man who stoically works hard even thought it is costing him his health, as well as cases of unrequited love, love lost over time or love in danger of being lost due to lack of communication.
All through the book I was trying to work out what was really happening – was the whole thing a dream? Is Mr Ryder a patient in a mental health institute, or suffering from dementia? I even wondered if the town was actually purgatory and Mr Ryder had to atone from the sins of his life before passing on.
Well, the book ends and we are never told.
Did I like it? No! yes? I don’t know. Was it genius or pretentious drivel…? Hmmm, probably the former, I guess, although I don’t really think it’s a book I enjoyed reading. But, saying that, I’m quite enjoying thinking about and analysing the experience now that it’s over…..