Reviews of ‘Goodness’

The Independent, Sunday, 1 September 1991

by John Kemp

Thrusting software executive George Crawley hauls himself up by his bootstraps to escape from his Methodiest upbringing, but finds his faltering marriage further threatened by the birth of a handicapped child. Wholly unsentimental in its treatment of deformity, Parks’s novel is far funnier than any plot summary could hope to suggest, as George moves heaven and earth in his attempt to resolve his difficulties. A taut fable about the conflicting claims of religion and common sense, Goodness negotiates the high-wire between tragedy and farce with unerring dexterity.

The Challenge of Choice

The Washington Post, 20 November, 1991

By Jonathan Yardley

Goodness is the fifth novel by the young British novelist Tim Parks to be published in this country. Like its predecessors it is economical, original, arresting and intelligent – in sum, richly deserving not merely of the usual critical applause, but also of a substantial readership. This latter, alas, it is unlikely to find (how right he was!) ; though Parks’s American publisher has brought out his books with apparent care and pleasure, none has yet to make a nick, much less a dent, on the collective awareness o American readers.

This is more a pity than a mystery. Unlike his contemporaries and countrymen, William Boyd and Martin Amis, Parks has yet to assay a “big” novel of the sort that American readers prefer. Like Anita Brookner’s (but then again, not like Anita Brookner’s) , his novels weigh in at around 200 pages and seem at first glance to occupy narrow ground, though closer scrutiny proves very much to the contrary. But Brookner has managed to find American readers, so perhaps there is hope over here for parks as well.

As Goodness makes abundantly clear, there certainly ought to be. Whether it is the best of his novels is a mater for debate within the tiny circle of his admirers, but it seems so to me: The humor that was primarily latent in the previous books here comes quite vigorously to the surface, the characters are drawn with a rich understanding of human contradiction, and an immensely difficult moral question is handled both head-on and with full appreciation of its ambiguity.

The question is posed to George Crawley, a young man who has risen in a great hurry from a threadbare suburban upbringing to a handsome house in one of London’s best neighbourhoods. He is a whiz at computer programming, “the soberly dressed junior director of a highly successful software company, personally responsible for a whole new concept of computer usage on small- to medium-size building sites.” He is married to the girl he fell in love with at university, and into the bargain she is most agreeably wealthy.

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