Feb 12, 10
Read from January 18 to 28, 2010
This is a narrative told by Kieron Smith growing up to the age of 13. It is like a series of short episodes, and I found I read it slowly. But there is a sustained series of threads, implicit and understated, that come together perfectly in the last 20 pages or so. The last three pages almost touch on the vertigo that is just hinted at beneath our hold on reality. Climbing is a key motif, a liberation and a danger, a precarious skill that develops. More than anything I would say it is a great pleasure to read.
I'd draw attention to the brilliant handling of powerful feelings - the sexual, the anxiety of status and most poignantly the experience of loss which feeds into a sad but fully realised sense of love. It's interesting too that in this young outline of the man to come are the confusions and fears over Fate, unseen contingencies - and a severe, omniscient God, the latter not so much imbued in the young Kieron by the bible classes and lessons he becomes so skilled at avoiding, but in the culture itself.
Kelman's understanding and exposition of the unfolding of language and boundaries, the inner and outer, the growth through social and attainment of individual power - in other words, culture - is exquisitively sharp. He does not need narrative tricks or flags of convenience: indeed, he often leaves you hanging denied of conventional 'closure'.
Stand back and be amazed. This is an utterly charming read, delicate and lovely. Anyone new to Kelman or a bit wary, start here and work backwards. Please.