Magazine article The Spectator

'The Melody', by Jim Crace - Review

Magazine article The Spectator

'The Melody', by Jim Crace - Review

Article excerpt

This remorselessly slow-moving, hazily allegorical drama about ageing and xenophobia is Jim Crace's 12th book, and the first to appear since he announced his retirement from writing in 2013. Like much of his other work, it lays its scene in a topographical and temporal bubble of the author's own devising, where recognisable aspects of society and geography are almost imperceptibly twisted away from true.

The place is a nameless seaside community that isn't in France, Italy, Malta, Greece or seemingly anywhere, but where people are called Dell'Ova and Busi and Pencillon and Klein; the period falls hazily between the invention of the phonograph and 'the chilling advent of packaged frozen food', but villagers still shiver medievally about beasts in the woods and one character adopts the strangely modern custom of calling herself 'Lexxx'.

The narrative drifts along in the wake of Alfred Busi, a sixtysomething crooner who 'in his time had sung in the greatest halls and auditoriums' but who, as the novel opens, haunts a shadowy mansion on the town's seafront, mourning his dead wife. A few days before he's due to perform at one of the town's vaguely Ruritanian ceremonies -- he has received a 'Worthiness Award', they've put up a bust on the 'Avenue of Fame' -- Busi is attacked in his back yard by what he claims is a naked child going through his bins.

This incident, much reported in the press, sparks a campaign against 'neanderthals' who are thought to live in the 'bosk', a large wood on the edge of town. …

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