Nicholas Murray’s second novel is an elegant dissection of modern romantic mores. Christopher, a successful shopfitter specialising in transforming dilapidated London buildings into swanky bistros, is romantically involved with Carmen, a one-time academic now unhappily employed as a magazine-columnist. Jimmy, millionaire and virtuoso pianist with a laissez-faire attitude to life, seems to offer the fullfillment she seeks.
Remembering Carmen takes the form of Christopher’s ’memorial’ to his former love. Set in London, Nice, the Greek Isles and Tuscany, it is a beautifully-crafted and utterly convincing portrait of adultery and its repercussions. Murray tracks his characters through the worlds of classical music, journalism, fashion-modelling and architecture, and asks where contentment might be found in an increasingly complex yet superficial world. His is a humane, concise voice, informed by European culture yet soberly grounded in modern Britain; Remembering Carmen consolidates Nicholas Murray’s position as one of our most insightful and original new novelists.
I enjoyed Murray's book very
I enjoyed Murray's book very much, even though, as he no doubt anticipated, it was hard to muster much sympathy for any of the characters. I was somewhat sympathetic towards the main protagonist, Christopher, but basically he was just as big a self-centered `tosser' as all the other characters. In the context of their mostly miserable, hedonistic and materialistic lives, the idea of `open relationships' was a complete sham.
All the contextual material was completely engaging and entertaining, such as the description of a king size bed in an American motel, the rooftop party scene, or the Tuscany lemon groves.
I was transported back to areas of London that I recall from my 3 years there many years ago, and could imagine the havoc reeked by the developers and speculators responding to whims of fashion and commerce. The book is full of rich and eloquent prose that celebrates the English language.
Nicholas Murray's novel is a
Nicholas Murray's novel is a damn good read: it is one part a state-of-the-nation tale of ambition, bad faith and materialism, and one part an elegiac love story. His central characters are complex, contemporary, flawed and recognisable products of the era we live in. He paints a broad canvas mainly of metropolitan London, which he brings to life vividly through the careers and activities of his main protagonists. London itself becomes a character in the novel, although the story as a whole has wider implications for contemporary society.
The novel is a critique, I think, of New Labour values: its glibness, its lack of commitment to anything other than the transitory, its shallowness and materialism. 'Remembering Carmen' has something important to say to us about the way we live now, but it is also an entertaining and absorbing read.