Our former colleague John Fanagan is an occasional guest blogger on SCC English. He has recently read Blake Morrison's latest novel, The Last Weekend, and here is his review:
Blake Morrison, who teaches creative writing in London, is a fine writer himself.
His memoirs of his father and mother, especially And When Did You Last See Your Father?, are first-rate. This is the first time I have read his fiction (it is his second novel) and I read it at a sitting. The writing is not of the same quality as his autobiographical books, so why was it so completely compelling?
First there is the Othello connection. The narrator is Ian, his wife Em (Iago and Emilia); their much wealthier friends, with whom they spend the fateful weekend, are Ollie and Daisy (Othello and Desdemona). There's even a (paper) handkerchief. I'm not sure why Morrison bothered. The parallels are pretty clunky and unconvincing at times and the story didn't need it. Ian was in love with Daisy when they were at university and Ian, his closest friend, stole her from him. The weekend takes place twenty years later, in a holiday house that Ollie and Daisy have rented. Ollie and Ian have challenged each other to golf and tennis matches; the progress of each is pretty tedious. The final contest, a cycle race, is more gripping. What keeps you reading are the unfolding relationships between the four and the flashbacks to their university days.
I think the main reason I liked it so much was the voice of the narrator, Ian. He is, by turns, reasonable and self-deceiving, passionate and unfeeling. He is not as evil as Iago, nor as interesting. He is a primary school teacher and it is pretty difficult to imagine him with young children. As the Othello parallels gradually creep up on you, you can't wait to see how the weekend will turn out.
Read it quickly and move on to And When Did You...