Something to Answer For by P.H. Newby #bookerprize [Review]

By the time I’d struggled to the last page of Something to Answer For  by P. H. Newby, there was little I felt sure about any longer.  Nothing in the novel seems quite certain other than it’s set in Port Said, a city in the throes of the Suez Crisis and where the lead character Townrow, has travelled to see the widow of a recently deceased friend.

But who exactly is Townrow? Even he doesn’t seem to be exactly certain – at one point he remembers he was married; another time that he is Irish. But by then he has told so many different versions of his life that we can’t be sure where truth ends and the lies take over.  Early on in the tale he is hit on the head and from then on, he operates in a dream like state in which he seems to recall events like his friend’s burial that have yet to happen.  The borders between truth and reality become ever more distinct as the novel progresses. For the reader it’s a baffling experience.

Baffling, but not rewarding.

P.H. Newby won the inaugural Booker Prize with this novel that one critic described as beautifully written and a tour de force of comic writing. There were certainly some passages that gave me a glimmer of hope that the book would improve. But they were simply transitory experiences before I was propelled into yet another labyrinth. By the end I suspected Newby had experienced more fun writing his book than I did in reading it.

Who exactly was P.H Newby? 

About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on June 6, 2012, in British authors, Man Booker Prize and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. A lot of what you write, makes this sound like just the right book for me – but then, it sounds like P.H. Newby never really gets it together.

    • I found it hard to keep track of what was happening. I know the person who writes the Guardian blog highly rated it though…. Karen Heenan-Davies


      • I went and read the Guardian blog post about it and it does sound like the author intended to baffle his reader and leave readers desperately searching for meaning. I guess it all depends on whether you like that type of book or not. I’m still intrigued by the book, I have to admit …

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