July 22, 2017

The Catastrophist by Ronan Bennett

The Catastrophist by Ronan BennettRonan Bennett’s The Catastrophist was shortlisted for the Whitbread Novel Award in 1998.

It’s set in 1959/60 during the revolution in Congo. It starts at the end (ish) and then we jump back to our narrator (James Gillespie) arriving in the Congo. He’s an English/Irish writer who’s gone there simply to try and win back his Italian girlfriend Ines who’s there covering the story for the Italian press (and because she’s pretty obsessed with revolution and communism).

The narration is very descriptive as Gillespie thinks a lot, including back over their past together and the high and low points of their relationship.

My favourite line is “I have never taken strong beliefs seriously; in my first career I was an historian”.

To read I found the book pretty hard-going, it really didn’t grip me, and I’ll be honest that I skipped lots of pages towards the end. But there are some very exciting sections with lots going on – and a lot of spying and intrigue too.

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