BOX HILL by Adam Mars-Jones

 I venture that to understand the protagonist Colin, and thus the novel, it takes one to know one, or else someone with a large empathy. As Colin explains it:

"Well, Ray's charisma was real, and I wasn't the only one to feel it. But I went along with it. It's only exaggerating a little to say that I knew what I as doing when I fell over those long and insolently extended legs. I was ready. I had no real idea of what I was ready for, but still I was ready.

"Even sudden things have a history behind them. Maybe it's the sudden things that have the most history. Sooner or later I was going to have to respond to excitement and danger. It was just a question of when and how I was going to do it. Sooner or later I was going to have to answer the call of the live rail."

I give four stars instead of five for what James Wood in his LRB review of the book called "a little Nabokovian velvet," the slight over-deliberateness in the description and placement of significant details, such as the waxing of the zip of Ray's leather, one-piece, biker suit.  In Nabokov, the velvet is a plush carpet. In this Mars-Jones, the velvet seems out of place on Box Hill.


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