July 28, 2017

Liver by Will Self

Liver by Will SelfOr give the book it’s full title – “Liver: a fictional organ with a surface anatomy of four lobes”. The book winds through 4 interconnected short stories all of which in some way relate back to Liver.

Foie Humain

The first story is a great read. It revolves around the life of the regulars of one of Soho’s most infamous member’s clubs over a 30 year period. Dark and miserable, but you can see how they are all quite happy in their world. They are very much an parallel universe all of their own – who get one over on the normals when they go to the opening night of The Extra’s latest play, but who otherwise seem to just want to be at the club – the Plantation.
But there’s a major twist at the end – which really does come from far off to right field!


The longest of the four stories, and split into separate chapters. It’s an intriguing story of ex-NHS administrator, Joyce, who has decided to take the last plane to Zurich in order to avoid the horrors of her terminal liver cancer. The story explores (in a very un-controversial way) the feelings of those who agree with assisted suicide and those who don’t. More interestingly it also delves into the politics of the Catholic Faith and the world of …. can’t say that as it will damage one of the twists for you.

For me the most enjoyable part is learning how the different people in the story cope with Joyce’s decision. And more importantly how they cope with her sheer determination and focus to do what is right for her, and only for her.

The 3rd story is a story about an advertising executive called Prometheus. Like Prometheus all the characters are named after Greek gods. The one thing I’m longing to discuss in this review, but can’t because it’ll destroy part of the story, is the part concerning liver. Put it this way – it’ll weird you out, confuse your and possibly make you feel a little ill.

Quite an intriguing story as it mixes real life things from the London ad world (name checking agencies such as Dare and Glue), yet in many ways it is an extremely out-of-this-world story. Again the story ties back to the Plantation Club in the first story. And reading this one it seems the stories are in chonological order.

Birdy Num Num

The final tale is told by a virus “we are legion” (somehow reading that I couldn’t get Red Dwarf out of my head!). And focuses on the activity in a druggy flat in London. More of a who-got-it than a who-done-it, it’s quite a different type of tale from the others and the one I found it the hardest to get into.

That’s possibly because it’s told alongside the parallel world one of the druggies lives in which is a film from the 70s starting Peter Sellers.

Kinda reminded me of Irvine Welsh’s Marabou Stork Nightmares

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