OR: The Nudist Colony

A review that originally appeared in The Third Alternative #26:-

Sarah May
Vintage, £6.99

Fourteen-year-old Aesop is knocked down one evening by Ludwig James’ chauffeur driven car, and on a whim the older man adopts him as a kind of mascot. Ludwig has connections with organised crime. In the past he was the lieutenant of eccentric billionaire Mack, overlord of a Brazilian empire, but Ludwig’s stay in the jungle left him with borealis, a rare skin disease that requires constant treatment. When the past catches up with Ludwig it’s Aesop who’s left to take the fall.

Sarah May’s debut novel is great fun, a narrative packed with oddball characters and crazy dialogue, like a Marx Brothers movie given a surrealist twist. The pace is frantic, while May’s observations about people and society are a source of constant delight, pithily expressed and neatly slotted into a story fuelled by a manic energy and drawing on seemingly bottomless depths of wit. If I have a complaint, it’s that ultimately the components of the plot don’t interlock as neatly as they should. At the end there are too many loose strings left dangling, too many questions still begging answer, as if the author got swept away on the tide of her own cleverness and was having such a good time she forgot to give it a cohesive structure. A journey to be enjoyed for the scenery en route rather than the eventual destination.

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