by David Gaffney
"READ WITH CARE" should be attached by butterfly label to the jacket of NEVER NEVER. Because unless the reader accords this novel the respect with which he would read the menu in an expensive restaurant, he will miss the point. Each chapter arrives with as much variety as soup, fish, meat, pudding, etc.,, but, trust me, it all comes together in a deeply gratified digestive tract.
Appreciation of NEVER NEVER demands a sophisticated palette. To begin with, our hero, Eric McFarlane, is not at all heroic. He is in his late twenties, and not very prepossessing. He has drifted from education to the dole, back to education, and after more dole to the Cleator Moor Money Advice Shop, where he helps the poor to rob the rich. He is understanding, empathetic and non-judgmental. He keeps a box of Kleenex on the corner of his desk. In fact, he himself becomes rather clever at robbing (Nat-West, Barclays, Lloyds, West Newland Trust, Market Trust,, HTC, and even the Cleator Moor Money Advice Shop) in order to support a woman of very little brain with whom he is no longer passionately in love, but from whose warm embrace he daily drives to his office in the St. Cuthbert's Centre, a converted church shared with the community samba band, the chittering of whose precision instruments pierce the walls of the old church. His desk stands below the stained glass windows of The Good Shepherd (repaired with Cellotape) and The Annunciation. Here he sits, responding to an endless queue of indigent clients who are stained a bilious blue green thanks to the robes of the Angel Gabriel, or printed over with Well Done Thou Good And Faithful Servant.
Eric dreams and fantasizes, of course he does. But his fortunes take a sudden turn for the worse, and he gives up hope (rather too quickly) of saving himself. Only when he perceives his lover to be in great danger does his spirit take light, and, although he has lost everything, endured pain and humiliation, and is almost certain to lose his own life, he at last earns our unqualified admiration. Well, perhaps that is over-egging it a bit, but only a soupcon.
NEVER NEVER is a novel of today, for today's readers, with today's humour, written with wit and compassion by one of today's most brilliant writers.
Review by Paula McMaster