Magazine article The Spectator

Soap Seen from Four Angles

Magazine article The Spectator

Soap Seen from Four Angles

Article excerpt

MY COUSIN THE WRITER by Paul Binding Dewi Publishing, L8.99, pp. 220, ISBN 1899235094

Hoorah! A dazzling new novel has appeared featuring a subject hitherto unknown to quality fiction, radio soap opera. This hidden world has long been pleading to be fictionalised - that is, if hidden worlds can plead. If they can, that plea has now been granted.

The action in Paul Binding's latest opus takes place in the 1950s, those heady days when a hefty chunk of the female British population glued their ears to the wireless set twice a week to be perked up by, in this case, The Parkers. As twist after twist baffles and delights the reader, it becomes apparent that life does not so much imitate art, but that soap operas pinch plots from life, which in turn, mimics radio drama.

Bruno, a handsome, arrogant young man, develops a tubercular patch on his lung, and is packed off by his cold-hearted father to live with his cosy Aunty Eileen and adoring cousin Ian. Unfit for National Service, Bruno spends his time flirting hopelessly with local girls whilst attempting to retake failed A-levels. Aunty Eileen's gaudy tea-trolleys and 'common' obsession with The Parkers, a radio serial centring round a vicarage in a London suburb, appears laughably 'bourgeois' to the gentrified Bruno.

Gradually, against his better nature, the snooty schoolboy becomes as Parkerobsessed as Eileen and Ian. Perhaps because he has no one else in whom to confide, Bruno pours out his heart in a lengthy epistle to Verity Orchard, The Parkers' scriptwriter. The letter describes his ghastly experience with a girl called Nina, and suggests a storyline for a script. As coincidence unfurls from chance, Bruno receives an invitation to The Puzzle, Verity's country house in Dorset.

There he is confronted with the grotesque Nesta, a housekeeper with an unhealthy penchant for goats. Bruno's attempts to ooze his boyish charms on Nesta are met with outrageous rudeness:

Bruno? Funny! I didn't know they still gave that name to human beings. I was daft enough to bestow it on a goat once - did him no good at all...

However Verity Orchard (imagine Virginia Woolf cross-pollinated with Elfine Starkadder from Cold Comfort Farm) appears enchanted by Bruno's youthful beauty. …

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