By M. Jonathan Lee
Matador – £7.99
The Radio, as highly observant, current, and entertaining as it is, is one those books that ends so badly, it unfortunately leaves the reader with a dismissive after taste. This is a great shame, because had it ended with a little more thought, consideration and all round chutzpah, it could well have been truly tremendous.
A black comedy, although equally poignant in parts, the book is anchored in the trials and everyday (terrible) tribulations of its prime protagonist, George Poppleton. The reserved and distinguished sort of gentleman each and every one of us might know and silently respect. An upstanding member of the community, who doesn’t rock the boat in any way, shape or form, who is first and foremost, the perfect family member – albeit horribly hen-pecked.
M. Jonathan Lee has ensured his story is liberally peppered with anecdotal humour throughout. For instance, after winking at his granddaughter Mollie, ‘’who was lying on her front on the lounge floor, colouring, looked up at her grandpa just in time to catch his smile and wink to her. She reciprocated the gesture (though her attempt looked more like an amalgamation of toothache and an involuntary eye spasm) before returning to her colouring. George, in turn, returned to his dishes.’’
The author has also ensured the book has a certain eloquent, familial gravitas. In Chapter Twenty-Five, George is in church, doing his best to speak of his son, Adam’s heartbreaking suicide: ‘’I didn’t understand his needs then and I don’t understand the situation we are all in now. I loved my son, but didn’t manage to find the right words to let him know this. And now we are all in this mess. I know that I have failed him as a father, that I could have done more. Don’t let the same thing happen to you. Talk… talk to each other […]. The church was silent. George stood staring at the coffin as tears streamed down his face. After a few moments, the vicar approached him and gently helped him back to his seat. He folded the speech that he had written the day before and replaced it back inside his suit pocket. His written words had been unused, instead replaced by those which came more naturally.’’
Again, the above is something that we can all relate to, which partially accounts for The Radio’s depth of social clarity. I just really wish the ending was as equally in depth and substantial as the rest of the book.
Maybe next time?