Living with the Truth
An old bookseller sitting in his flat in the seaside town of Rigby hears the door. Is it Death? No. It’s the truth in human form. Truth takes him on an emotional journey through his life providing him with many of the answers he might have sought, if only he was the kind of person who went looking for answers, and a few he would never have wanted to know. NB: ONLINE HTML VIEWER CENTRES TEXT More
Picture, if you will, Jonathan Payne, probably the last person in the world you'd expect to be the lead character in anybody's novel, a jaded bookseller nearing the end of a wasted life which has been spent in a nondescript seaside town in the north of England. Jonathan could be an everyman, but seems to have missed the boat somewhere. He's both distastefully pathetic and oddly sympathetic. A passive character, he has been happy to "doodle in the margins" of his life without experiencing either great joy or great despair, content to read about life rather than getting his fingers dirty actually living it, although it is debatable whether he even has any genuine interest in matters literary. If Death were to knock on his door it really wouldn’t trouble him greatly.
But life has something else in store for poor Jonathan. There is a knock at the door, only it’s not Death. It’s the truth; literally, the human personification of truth.
Truth personified proves to be a likeable, if infuriating, character with a unique way of expressing his thoughts: “glib dipped in eloquence and then rolled in a coating of irony,” to quote one reviewer. He knows everything that has happened to everyone everywhere and has no qualms sharing intimate details of the lives of great painters, philosophers, queens or dictators whose lives he has also interrupted from time to time or the lives of the people who cross his path while he’s with Jonathan. A big truth is as relevant as a small one, as far as he's concerned. He’s quite indiscriminate. The same reviewer described him as “one of the most endearing antagonists I have come across.” Comparisons with Peter Cook’s devil in Bedazzled are not unreasonable.
The catch about being Truth is that he has no idea what is going to happen; that's the job his brother Destiny who also makes a cameo appearance. Truth doesn't tell anyone else very much and certainly doesn't tell anyone else who he is. That truth is for Jonathan alone, who adjusts to the presence of Truth in his life surprisingly well. He discovers what he's missed out on in his life, what other people are really thinking and the true nature of the universe which, as you might imagine, is nothing like he ever would have expected it to be.
By the end of the book, having learned far more about himself than he ever wanted to know, Jonathan finds out that it's usually never too late to start again. Only sometimes it is: no Ebenezer Scrooge or George Bailey-esque turnaround for poor Jonathan, but that doesn’t mean important lessons aren’t learned, though you will be left wondering how there could possibly be a sequel after this.
The author Kay Sexton described the books as follows: “In all, this is one of those novels that bookshops must hate: not 'hard' enough to be spec fic, not 'weird' enough to be fantasy, too realistic for the humour section and yet too humorous to shelve easily with the lit fic. And that, I suspect, is going to prove to be its charm; for those who do read it, it's a singular take on the world, and it will either resonate with you or leave you cold. … But I can recommend that you try it — if you like distinctive fiction that rings no bells and blows no whistles but creeps up on you with its absurdities, this book will satisfy you, as it did me.”
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