The Fall Guy

James Lasdun's The Fall Guy begins with a summer wish to escape the burdens of everyday life and live in a dream--at least for a while. In the tradition of Goodbye, Columbus and The Great Gatsby, the novel is contained within a single season--a sensual, surreal space that seems soothingly insulated from the dangers of the world, and yet contains its own peculiar threat as a result of this disconnection. It is not long before the dream becomes nightmarish, as characters begin to unravel, morally, psychologically and otherwise.

Matthew, a depressed chef, sets out to stay with his wealthy cousin Charlie, and Charlie's cool, charismatic wife, Chloe, in their vacation home. Together, they form what Matthew feels is a perfect triangle of affection. Yet there is something precarious about their dynamic, as though with just the slightest crack, it could be revealed to be fragile or false. There is also something forced about the happiness Matthew feels with them, even if he fully believes it to be a pure and innocent admiration.

Lasdun captures the contradictions of this atmosphere with precision, describing the season as having "reached that point of miraculous equilibrium where it felt at once as if it had been going on forever and as if it would never end. The heat merged with the constant sounds of insects and re-winged blackbirds, to form its own throbbing, hypnotic medium. It made you feel as if you were inside some green-lit womb, full of soft pulsations." --Annie Atherton

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