Thursday, 14 July 2011

This Party's Got to Stop by Rupert Thomson

Thanks go to Granta Books Twitter Page for sending me a signed copy of this book. 

I have to admit, I don’t usually read non-fiction by choice.  However, this is my second encounter in the last year; my last being Original Gangster by Frank Lucas (You’re probably more likely to recognise his life as being dramatized in the film American Gangster with Denzel Washington).  I am always pleasantly surprised when I start reading a non-fiction book.  There is no constant waiting for the up-down, will they-won’t they, predictable storyline to come out; it’s real and whilst it might not be the fairy tale you’re dreaming of, it’s refreshing.

Rupert Thomson is the author of eight novels, and this is his first venture into non-fiction.  Thomson doesn’t focus (or really do more than briefly touch upon) his successful career; this is a story based on the significant relationships in his life.

The inside cover says:

“Thomson has produced one of the most beautiful and unforgettable memoirs of recent years; a moving and disarmingly funny portrait of a family undergoing turmoil and change.

Thomson’s mother died suddenly when he was very young.  On the death of his father, twenty years later, the three brothers – Rupert, Robin and Ralph – returned to the family home to confront both their grief and each other.  While the rest of the country focused on the miner’s strike, on the struggle between Thatcher and Scargill, they took their dad’s old pills and tore the house apart.

When the three brothers went their separate ways, a rift opened up between Thomson and his youngest brother.  More than two decades go by before Thomson began to unravel the mystery of the falling-out and to piece together a portrait of the mother he could never remember.

This Party’s Got to Stop is an honest, wry account of mismanaged goodbyes, of time lost and time wasted, of mourning gone wrong and murder plots never quite carried out.  It reveals the complexities of family life in graphic and heartbreaking detail.”

The book jumps around a lot over a number of decades, and at times my inability to focus on specific details (i.e. dates) made me wish the book came with a built in time line for me to study! But it does work exceptionally well, gaps are filled in as you read and it all comes together very well in the end.

I particularly liked that each chapter was given a title, which comes out at some point in the chapter.  It wouldn’t always be the main focus of the chapter, but would spring up and make me say “Ah, that’s why this chapter is called that”.  A nice touch, simple but effective in my opinion.

Not being a writer myself, I could be completely misguided in this belief but I’m going to come out with it anyway.  I think (possibly!) it’s easier to write fiction - to let your imagination run away with you.  However, writing a memoir like Thomson’s requires a certain level of detail and authenticity.

This Party’s Got to Stop doesn’t have an elaborate plot, but consists of honest memories, bound together by various relationships over a number of decades.  It takes you on a rollercoaster of emotions and explores the complexities of family life really quite well.  We all have probably experienced (or know somebody who has) a situation getting out of control resulting in a feud that should never have happened in the first place, a simple lie which you end up regretting forever, the longing to ask questions or tell somebody something but knowing you no longer can.  This book touches on all those aspects and is a truly touching tale of a fragmented family.  The honesty that Thomson writes with has to be admired and you can’t help but get swept along with him.  The last part of the book is my favourite - hopefully making the reader stop and think – things aren’t always how they seem, what you perceive to be, might be seen in a completely different light be somebody else and perhaps if you swallowed your pride or insecurities (or whatever it is that is holding you back) and just talked about it – things would be much simpler and resolved long before they spiral out of control.

A moving, yet refreshing read - thoroughly enjoyable.  I'm now intrigued to read some of Thomson's fictional works.


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