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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Tim Roux Reviews Novella-Sized Biography

Title: The Bookie's Runner

Author: Brendan Gisby
Genre: Nonfiction: Biography
ISBN: 978-1456554590

Reviewed by Tim Roux  originally by Amazon

Brendan Gisby's 'The Bookie's Runner' is a perfect 100 pages - perfect and exactly 100 pages (you don't see that too often).

So, it is a novella, and a eulogy, maybe even an apology for Brendan's not being able to do more to help his father in troubled times, although he clearly did what he could.

There is nothing extraordinary about the story of this book - millions, even billions, have suffered lives like these, which makes it a universal tale.

What is extraordinary is the writing. Like the best of French auteur cinema, it is a novella of characters who interact vividly (you can see each one clearly as if on celluloid) in a mildly tragic way. The tone is lyrical, fluorescent, and its trajectory is literally the dying fall. We know from the beginning that it is about a man who will be dead by the end of the book. The question is why.

There is also something extraordinary about the plotting and the rhythm of the piece, something that mesmerises. The whole book takes place in the space of a short bus journey the author took as a teenager after the funeral of his father on his way to his first day back at school.

It has been compared with 'Angela's Ashes' but it is not as grandstanding as that. It is more like Francoise Sagan's 'Bonjour Tristesse' or Elizabeth Smart's 'I Sat Down in Grand Central Station and Wept'.

It is too late to read this before Brendan's dad died and to put things right, and that would somewhat undermine the point of the book, but there is time yet to read it before you do. Yes, it is one of those books for sure.
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