Monday, 30 June 2014

Book Review: Vulgar Things by Lee Rourke

Vulgar Things
By Lee Rourke
Published by 4th Estate
Available in Trade paperback / ebook

Lee Rourke's latest novel, Vulgar Things is full of secrets, lies and the things we do to create a reality of truth.

Jon Michael is divorced, sacked from his publishing job and disillusioned with London life when he gets a phone call to say that his uncle Rey has been found dead in his caravan on Canvey Island. Jon agrees to clear out the caravan and sort out his uncle's belongings. Maybe this could be the thing he needs to get him out of a black hole...

A disorientating week in Southend sets Jon on a mission to solve the mystery about his disappearing Mother, find out the truth about his Uncle and his collection of home movies and an unfinished novel and a mystery woman who he meets at the end of a pier. The trip doesn't seem to be setting his life back on track but rather knocking Jon completely into a downward spiral of chaos and confusion.

Rourke creates characters that at many moments are not likable. Jon is a character that the reader likes and hates in equal measures and usual both at the same time. Does this make the novel unappealing if the character is not likable? No, the plot and the intrigue keeps the reader going. There are times when Jon needs someone in his life to support him. That person is the reader.

Vulgar Things reads like a Richard Yates novel mixed with Zach Braff's Garden State with touches of Mike Leigh's Secrets and Lies but set in Southend, Essex. Jon suffers from disillusionment, meandering through life, trying to escape the pull of everyday commitments and routines but he is unable to pull himself out of the banality of his life. Jon must untangle the secrets and lies built up around his life by his family to find out who he really is. In this process he must learn not to build up his own unreal reality to deal with past.

Rourke creates a great sense of place within Vulgar Things ranging from the expansive sea full of shipping containers which are just out of reach as well as the claustrophobic space of the caravan, trapping Jon within the mess of his uncle's life and the thin walls. Canvey island, adrift from the mainland is a bit like how Jon is adrift from the expected path that his life should be taking.

Vulgar Things is an intriguing novel and I am definitely going to add Lee's previous novel, The Canal to my wish list. This book has the potential to become a cult classic.

Vulgar Things will be published later this week and will be available from your favourite bookshop.

I was kindly sent a copy from the publisher.

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