Thursday, 5 November 2009

Love Remains by Glen Duncan

Another recommend from a few years back, Love Remains is a beautifully written yet exceptionally bleak novel. A love story between two students, Nick and Chloe, is interspersed with scenes of Nick wandering around New York six years later in a near catatonic state.

Something has obviously gone seriously awry in Nick and Chloe’s lives and Duncan slowly builds up to the random and catastrophic event that has caused Nick to flee London for America and Chloe to be left for dead back home. On the run and convinced that the future itself has ended, Nick finds himself in a seedy bar in the Village, Scrimshankers, patronized chiefly by borderline and committed alcoholics. Mickey, the sadistic middle-aged widow Nick falls in with, contemptuously describes it as the sort of place where drunks to go to die.

A pub that most people would cross the road to avoid, Scrimshankers is the domain of Lancelot, another refugee from Britain, who props up the bar there and souses himself with whisky:

Again the drinkers pause... He drained his glass then knocked the empty on the counter. ‘Marty? Oi Marty yew fackin’ khant. Johnnie Red in there please – one cube of ice, mate, all right? Not your usual fucking avalanche.

Finding another ex-pat in the filthy bar, Lancelot starts to confide with Nick:

Lancelot rapped the counter with his solid knuckles and Marty delivered two more clinking tumblers of Scotch. Lifting his glass up to one of the bar’s weak overhead lights, Lancelot inspected its contents, coldly. ‘Doesn’t work now, you see,’ he said. Nicholas looked up at him. ‘Used to shut me up. Booze. Stopped talking.’

Like the boozers in Scrimshankers, there’s something poetic about the self-destruction in Love Remains, although I’d hesitate to pass the book on to anyone holding out hope for a happy ending...

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