Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Dark Smile

The Companion
The Companion 

"Smiling at people you think are weird or wonderful, or smiling at completely the wrong time, is an excellent thing to do--it really can be quite unnerving." (p 18)

This is a strange novel that can be best described as a variation of black humor that holds an odd assortment of characters together as they try to cope with their lives. But none are stranger than the narrator, Trevor an out-of-work young man from Dublin, who finds a job as a companion to a wheel-chair bound teenager in New York City. The young man, Ed, has his own suite, lined with sound equipment and well provided with CDs, LPs, videos, and porno magazines. His father, a retired judge, is holed up in his study; his grossly obese mother has not got out of bed for ten years, and the three communicate only by internal phones; only the cheerful pot-smoking cook Ellie is the least bit normal. Trevor gets the job because he has the physical strength, an upbeat personality, and apparently some previous experience at a handicapped center in Dublin.
Trevor's experiences with this family are narrated in an uneven manner and, at times during my reading, I found it somewhat difficult to maintain a focus on the story. As the novel unfolds Trevor's personal life is as important as his relationship with the family for whom he works. It is his internal story that Trevor supposedly shares with a Priest and then bits of his past life, his anger and his parents, he shares with the reader.  But the best aspect of the novel is the relationship with Ed.  The strain of caring for Ed demonstrates itself in strange ways. He is a handful, and the pain causes him to lash out, but he and Trevor reach an understanding, and they both become better people. Their relationship is certainly smoother than that of Trevor as narrator, for the Irishman is unreliable as Roche has him sharing details of his life and then admitting that they are lies, a narrative style that is jarring at best and sometimes just annoying. The novel ultimately left me with the feeling of the noir atmosphere that was pervasive throughout, but in the end I would simply describe the book as a dark smile, very dark.

The Companion by  Lorcan Roche. Europa editions, 2010 (2007)


Parrish Lantern said...

This has interest, although the narrative style is it enough to put you off ever reading it again or off this writers work.

James said...

I would say to anyone considering this novel: read at your own risk - it is strange and dark, but may be just right for you. It was well-written and I would consider reading another by Roche, except he would have a hard time making it onto my already over-full reading list.