At the back of his mind he was speculating whether flight at this eleventh hour would be criminal or merely reprehensible bad taste. A murmur from the nudgers announced the arrival of the bridal party.
Needless to say that his marriage is not a happy one. He is unsatisfied with his little haberdashery shop and ends up making enemies of all his neighbours. This is when he decides to burn down his shop with himself inside, but even this he bungles and instead becomes a bit of a local hero. I won’t say much about the end but I was impressed with how the story developed from this point, Wells really surprised me with how he continued this story. Near the end of the book Mr Polly becomes quite reflective and tries to explain his life to another character:
I have had an excellent run of great books just lately and one of the best of this group of books is William Trevor’s The Children of Dynmouth. This is another one of the books off of my TBR pile that I’ve decided to attack this year. It is also my first book by William Trevor, although I have seen the excellent film (and no doubt the book is just as good) of Trevor’s Felicia’s Journey. I still hope to write a lengthier post on this book but as time drifts away I realise that I may never get round to it. But it was an astounding novel right from the first page. The main character is a fifteen year-old boy called Timothy Gedge, who is, well, a little strange. He’s mostly given up on school, preferring to watch TV instead, and he’s left on his own as his mother and sister are out at work during the day and socialising during the evening—his father left home years ago. He spends most of his time ‘observing’ the inhabitants of the small seaside town and as such he knows all their secrets. He likes making jokes, jokes that most people don’t ‘get’, and so he gets it into his head to participate in an upcoming talent contest with a rather macabre comedy skit based on a serial killer. The only problem is that he has no money and he needs some props; he then embarks on a series of blackmail attempts to get what he wants. Gedge is at times quite a menacing character but also rather pathetic as he doesn’t really know the ramifications of his actions—he just wants his props for his amazing comedy skit. I loved Trevor’s ending of this novel; it wasn’t what I was expecting. Michael Frayn’s book Headlong is about an academic (a philosopher called Martin Clay) who, when visiting his country retreat, believes that his neighbour has an unknown Bruegel painting, amongst others, that he is intending to sell. He believes it is the sixth painting in Bruegel’s ‘Months of the Year’ cycle of paintings, a series which includes the famous The Hunters in the Snow. Much of the novel is taken up with his research on Bruegel’s life and times and the rest of the novel consists in Martin trying to get access to the painting to verify whether it is a Bruegel or not. Martin offers to help to sell his neighbour’s paintings with the intention of getting the Bruegel for himself. In trying to get to see the painting again he inadvertently gets mixed up with the neighbour’s wife. The novel is part art history and part farce and didn’t quite work for me though it was an ok read overall. I see that some reviewers call it a comedy, which I can sort of see, but it’s not a label I would automatically pin on it. The only other book I’ve read by Frayn is Spies which I much preferred to this one.
“I often wonder about life,” he said weakly.
He tried again. “One seems to start in life,” he said, “expecting something. And it doesn’t happen. And it doesn’t matter. One starts with ideas that things are good and things are bad—and it hasn’t much relation to what is good and what is bad. I’ve always been the skeptaceous sort, and it’s always seemed rot to me to pretend we know good from evil. It’s just what I’ve never done. No Adam’s apple stuck in my throat, ma’am. I don’t own to it.”
“I set fire to a house—once.”
I’m trying to decide what to read next. It may be time for some more non-fiction, maybe some more books on the Russian Revolution, especially as it’s the centenary year.