My Heart Is a Little Wild Thing by Nigel Featherstone
Midway through Nigel Featherstone’s second novel, the protagonist’s father speaks to him in the departure lounge of the airport: ‘Just try to be happy Patrick. It is not as hard as you think.’ My Heart Is a Little Wild Thing is the story of Patrick trying to reckon with this very challenge. He is a loner, disconnected from his aspirations, his sexuality and his family, barring his (difficult) mother whom he looks after every single day. In an attempt to capture the happiness of his childhood, Patrick ventures to Jimenbuen in the country, where his family used to holiday. It is here that he meets Lewis and finally experiences all the good in our world: acceptance, laughter, wilderness, art and love. It is short-lived; compromised, Patrick returns to his ailing mother.
This is a novel about what it means to yearn. We are privy only to Patrick’s memories and experiences; we travel as he does on the long country roads, through endless nights of longing and days of fumbling. Patrick is customarily noble in his actions but is trapped in an interminable cycle of duty. He is a tourist in his own life and although the novel does eventually take us to a place of redemption, as readers, we are left feeling as lonely as Patrick is. This is the power of this quiet novel; it is a portrait, surely, of many of us – those wondering if this is our place, our lot, our future. We feel caught and only a dramatic change of circumstances allows a break of sorts, a moment of possibilities.
We learnt in Featherstone’s first novel, Bodies of Men, that he is a writer who understands human fragility. Here, Featherstone has cemented his talent and allowed us an intimate view into another person’s heart. It is a gift.