Review | Monday 23 April 2012
In 2011, Peter Barry produced one of the most astonishing literary debuts I have read in a long time – I Hate Martin Amis et al. If you haven’t read it, do. It’s an everyday story of a man who channels his frustration at not getting his novels published into finding a new career as a sniper in Sarajevo, as you do. Barry takes this unlikely literary conceit and produces a work that is mordantly funny, utterly tragic, and deeply disturbing.
His second novel We All Fall Down is more conventional, but also takes the reader into a world that is disturbing and tragic, though not without humour. We follow Hugh Drysdale, advertising executive, as his company hits a bad patch and begins shedding staff. Trapped in a financial web of his own making, and an increasingly dysfunctional marriage, our ‘hero’ watches his carefully wrought world fall to pieces before his eyes.
As with I Hate Martin Amis et al, Barry lets the logic of events unfold without flinching – it is vital but uncomfortable reading, as Hugh Drysdale’s struggles strike a chord with all of us in these times of financial and emotional uncertainty. Barry is as unsparing in his prose as he is with his plot – there are no wasted words, no wasted emotions. Barry displays consummate skill in allowing us to empathise with his protagonist without ever sentimentalising him. This is another dazzling novel from a great new talent, and another tribute to the wonderful work being done by the publisher Transit Lounge.
Peter Salmon is the author of The Coffee Story