Independent Choice: Fiction's Coming Home

By King, Chris Savage | The Independent (London, England), April 5, 1997 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Independent Choice: Fiction's Coming Home


King, Chris Savage, The Independent (London, England)


Spring is heralded in publishing by an outbreak of novels with watercolour covers and mild titles. Their themes are downbeat: divorce; bed death; have we done the best thing for the children?; is that all there is? The implied effect is of a soothing pastille, but these products are not indistinguishable.

Gillian White's Chain Reaction (Orion, pounds 16.99) is structured in segments, using the bright idea of a house-buyers' chain. Assorted locales and very different lives collide as everyone relocates. There's Irene, a feisty pensioner about to be turfed into an old people's home with the help of a daughter who talks like a government form. Joy and Vernon are pillars of neat Eighties aspiration, until one is driven to murder. The Middletons are an unassuming brood until their son is done on a trumped-up rape charge. In her anatomy of criminal injustice and media hysteria, White is impassioned, but never lets up on satire.

A bunch of aristocrats and their flunkies are juxtaposed with a vegetating rock star and his tough rock chic, Belle. Chain Reaction draws clever comparisons between status-led dynasties, and the culpability of new and old wealth. In her poignant and hilarious portrait of the adorable nitwit Arabella, and Janice the "subnormal" rape victim, White illustrates how irregularity is fiercely policed in the poor but allowed to run free among the privileged. She has a remarkable empathy with a rich cast of characters. Her broad but sure brushstrokes are stingingly accurate. Melodramatic, and with a generous sweep, Chain Reaction doesn't deserve its dreary cover: a Next Casuals woman walking away from a mansion. It's as if the publishers have acquired a hot property whose true worth is completely lost on them. Deborah Moggach's Close Relations (Heinemann, pounds 15.99) focuses more traditionally on the middle classes in crisis. A formulaic tale of three sisters is given a brisk respray of modernity. So Dad gets heart trouble and responds by taking up with a young black nurse. Grandpa and grandson - with their new friends - bump into each other at The Fridge. Maggie, the tomboy of the trio, has a lesbian awakening, and the spinster sister - a hackneyed archetype - gets her married lover's job. Moggach is a capable example of English fine writing, if that's what you like. While she can achieve poetic resonance, her tendency is to pull herself together and trip along into a breezier style. She often reverts to shorthand: streets are like "a Frank Capra movie", a hunky blacksmith is "Lawrentian", while the sisters - inevitably - are "Chekhovian". For all the contemporary whiz, the novel's conclusion is strangely old- fashioned.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Independent Choice: Fiction's Coming Home
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?