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When to Walk

by Rebecca Gowers

It is clear from Chapter One, when her husband, Con (short for Constantine), walks out on Ramble that, as a married couple, they are mismatched. By the way, Ramble is about 50% disabled in her legs and she is partially deaf. Con orchestrates film scores. He is impulsive: he proposed to her on both knees after they had known one another only a fortnight. He is eloquent, lucid, congenial and gregarious. When they were first married he talked to her, a lot, about music, while illustrating his points on his keyboard. But they don’t talk like that any more: he has taken to composing his screen music wearing earplugs wired into his keyboard (they can’t afford a piano). Because her father had been a professional pianist, Con had presumed that Ramble, as an insider, would understand his dream of composing great works. The irony is that Con understood and appreciated her father much more than Ramble did: her partial deafness distorted the sound of music. Only good sex has kept Con and Ramble together for three years.

Ramble is a writer. At present she is marking time writing copy for a travel magazine. She is not talkative, she is a thinker. Her thoughts are periphrastic, witty and cryptic. She is punctilious in her use of words, and she loves jokes, especially literary jokes. She is distressed and shocked when Con walks out on her. WHEN TO WALK is written as though it is pages in Ramble’s journal. The supporting cast is quite small, but effectual, and every word is important to the intriguing plot.

Rebecca Gowers is a sensitive and discerning author; she is dispassionate but well informed about the plight of the disabled. Her humour is a snuffle rather than a roar, but is no less funny for that. The drawing of her characters is exquisite, the dialogue flawless. Gowers understands perfectly how Ramble felt when Con ‘delivered his speech, murmured his regrets and disappeared’.

Ramble’s thoughts are her own, and inimitable, but anyone is entitled to expostulate and even become introspective at such a time. Gowers is deserving of a large and empathetic readership.

‘If I were a man,’ says Ramble to herself, ‘ I would say I’ve been unmanned’... Well, yes.

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