Robin Tudge’s debut novel is a welcome one. I was not disappointed and enjoyed it. Written in the first person, it was refreshing to get an insight to the mind of a young man, whom for once, isn’t all mouth and balls.
A rite of passage
This is a rites of passage novel. The protagonist, to begin with is naïvely optimistic, seeking adventure and romance with Ellie, the girl of his dreams. Chicago City beckons. He envisages spending the long summer break from university in England raking in the dollars selling ice cream. What fun it will be, and, like all the best feel-good movies – Jim is after all film-obsessed – he will end up with his girl and live happily ever after.
Indeed, in the oppressive heat, the routine of work, spliff, beer, sleep, punctuated by the weekly day off, is peppered with scrapes, close escapes and juvenile escapades in, what can only be described as, ice cream warfare. The recounting of these tales often made me laugh out loud.
A reflection of the schoolboy
The prose is liberally strewn with VIZ-like cheesy sexual inuendo and double entendre. Sex and excrement are a running preoccupation, of Jim’s mind. It is quite funny though and these somewhat puerile obsessions reflect the schoolboy in him still.
Jim, is a complex character, however. Outwardly his proclivity for strong language, toilet humour and brashness, hides an inner self that is, profoundly sensitive, confused and endearing. We feel his pain and his internal struggle to make sense of love and life. At times, his mind-wrestling manifests itself, in inconsolable weeping and suicidal thoughts.
Tudge sympathetically captures the intensity of Jim’s mental demons with integrity and insight. This is a brave novel, in that Tudge is unafraid to tackle darker issues which are prevalent in our society, and to which there are not always straightforward solutions, not least those surrounding sexual violence. The last few chapters are particularly soul-searching, and do not always make for comfortable reading.
The novel is great fun, though it could have done with more ruthless editing at times. That is something for the future. It is also moving and raises important questions. The descriptive prose is original and, often, scintillatingly beautiful. I look forward to reading the next novel from this author.
More by Nicole Tipton.