2011: 55. Past Imperfect

“London is a haunted city for me now and I am the ghost that haunts it.”

Past Imperfect, Julian Fellows

Past Imperfect is Fellows’s follow-up to Snobs.  I didn’t think it was quite as successful as his first novel, but I still enjoyed it quite a bit.  Unlike Snobs where our narrator was mostly an observer, here we get the first person tale where our narrator tells us the story of his former friend, Damian Baxter, who ruined his life (or so he thinks) and then 40 years later, pops back into it, asking an extraordinary favor.  You see, he is certain that he got a girl pregnant 30 years ago, but he’s not quite sure which one it was (it was the swinging sixties, after all).  And now he’s dying, and frightfully wealthy, and couldn’t our narrator figure out which one it was? And as much as he hates Damian, he finds that he somehow will - so he revisits his forgotten past, and along the way we learn all about society London in the 1960’s and how it all crumbled away.

The thing is, it’s a good story with the whole mystery of who is the father, and getting to explore all these different ladies and how they were hit by the 1960’s (short story, some crumbled, some thrived).  And I liked the narrator and I liked Damian, and the stuff about how he was the only one who really embraced modernity.  But, because our narrator was in the thick of the action, as opposed to a bit removed (a la Snobs), it made it seem as if we were supposed to think the whole silly class system was as important as he obviously did.  I mean, the layer of “isn’t this all totally foolish” that permeated Snobs was missing.  And without that satiric edge you find yourself thinking, well, cry me a river if you 1% (to use the language of our protests du jour) are forced to become regular people like the rest of us.  I mean, it’s hardly tragic, but it sometimes seems a little bit that we are supposed to be sad that one super rich person might lose his super rich privilege. 

But that’s a quibble in an otherwise pretty entertaining story.

Categories: Fiction

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017