Masterfully controlled…this is the best new novel I have read all year…a must for any holiday suitcase
A geologist takes his young mistress to a Mediterranean island, has a personal crisis and gets involved in a hellishly complicated building scandal, involving a couple of deaths and the nightmare scenario of slabs of granite tumbling from Australian skyscrapers… So far I’d written the novels using an alluring but distorted perspective or by giving a whole series of complementary and conflicting perspectives. Now I was looking for something different. I wanted to find away of being intense without resorting to the first person, and above all a way of making the books intellectually richer without stooping to the tedious business of taking time out from the story to reflect on things. It was, it still is, quite a conundrum and often you start without knowing how it will work.
This time I drew on two very different sources, my years translating magazines about stone quarries, for that was how I supported myself before publishing, and then my more recent translation of Roberto Calasso’s book on the Greek myths, The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony. Peter, the geologist hero, agonising over marriage and mistress, sees everything in geological metaphor as a way of taking the sting out of it. The strategy has the unhappy result of making the geological world, which is his work, reverberate with personal anxiety, an anxiety that meshes with the archetypes suggested by ruins, statues, vases. Eventually, Peter escapes from private decisions by using his technical expertise to sort out mystery, scandal, and perhaps even murder. The whole thing is soaked in a lyrical, even erotic engagement with the geological world.
Tightly plotted and with the dynamism of a superior thriller