Patrick Neylan's Reviews > Talk of the Town

Talk of the Town by Jacob Polley
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's review
Sep 18, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: fiction, 21st-century

Jacob Polley is one of the best writers I have read for years. Talk Of The Town might be described as a piece of masterful existentialism, or perhaps an English Catcher In The Rye, or a 21st Century Kes, but all that matters for now is that it is a hugely enjoyable story written in such an engaging style that the reader barely notices how beautifully poetic it is.

True, I was worried when I started reading. There are few apostrophes and no speech marks, and the entire piece is written in the dialect of Carlisle, such as: "Yer hear about plenty of stuff gan on, don't yer, but how d'yer know it really gans on if yer haven't seen the spot fer yersel if yer can?" Can you manage 275 pages of that if, like me, you were born in Surrey?

Yes, you can. Unlike Amit Chaudhuri's The Immortals, which uses Indian dialect to intimidate the reader, Polley uses dialect to root the story firmly where it belongs: right in the head of his 14-year old hero Chris. (If the dialect bothers you, then read it quickly, skimming over the prose and letting it soak into you. Trust me, it works.)

The reader only sees, hears and feels what Chris feels. As Chris probes the grimy underbelly of Carlisle trying to find out why his mate Arthur has disappeared, he encounters an array of fascinating and lifelike characters in a slightly unreal world: the world as seen by an adolescent who barely understands it.

Polley uses imagery so easily and naturally that the reader slips into Chris's psyche without effort; his use of imagery is so efficient and effective at doing the job that one almost fails to notice just how beautiful it is.

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