This novel follows a group of people as they travel to California for a week of meditation and new age workshops culminating in Tantric Sex.
It is wickedly funny in many places although I found myself uncertain as to whether St Aubyn was just poking fun at these people or whether he actually believed some of the nonsense they spouted. Certainly he seemed to be in agreement with at least some of the long lecture given by Adam towards the end of the book. And clearly the Tantric Sex worked for a number of the characters.
My favourite moment came when one character asked why God doesn't "alleviate our suffering" and answers that it is "because he doesn't see it as suffering" to which the other character replies: "Clearly he's less bright than one imagined." Another good moment came when the split between body and soul was dismissed as being analogous to the distinction between a rose and its scent.
But I found the first few chapters extremely difficult. Each chapter stared with a new set of characters and the second chapter is an eighteen page description of an LSD trip in the American desert. I found it very difficult to care about any character when they were introduced and dismissed so quickly, especially when their purpose seemed to be so that the author could mock them. The book didn't really hit its stride until we met the sceptical Peter who is just going through the mystical experiences in order to track down a woman he had sex with for three days and then we meet the equally sceptical Julian. (Why were the only real sceptics the two English men?)
In part I was reminded of Evelyn Waugh. The wit is caustic and can be very funny, the descriptions and observations sometimes lyrical and poetic but wit and poetry don't make a novel and I found the format too fragmented to be able to enjoy to the full the stories that were developing. In the end I didn't really care enough about the people.
August 2015; 278 pages
- Having reviewed over 1100 books on this blog, I have now written one myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. It is available on Kindle through Amazon. Read it and find out whether this critic can write. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57