Swallowing the Sun – David Parks

first_imgMartin is a man of destiny – or at least we are assured as much with mounting insistence throughout Swallowing the Sun. He has escaped, by dint of stubborn grit, from his brutal childhood in a Belfast slum, but in his new middle-class existence he feels awkward and uncomfortable. He is suspicious of this bourgeoisie to which he suddenly belongs, and is overawed by money and soft furnishings. Furthermore, he has an old taste for violence (instilled of course by his father) that is only lying dormant. And when things in the cosy family unit start to fall apart, the old horror returns. David Parks makes so much of these tragic totems that you feel, after a while, like enquiring as to the precise nature of Martin’s relations with his mother, and whether he has consulted an oracle recently. But to give away anything much of the plot would be to spoil the most enjoyable aspect of this novel. Parks tells a good yarn, and the pace of the narrative mounts steadily and effectively, even if it seems to lack an ending. But Parks isn’t content just to say what happens next; he wants to have a deep and meaningful dialogue with you. Sometimes this means that he overloads sentences, describing characters’ thoughts with overweight diction, as when Martin has a moment of reflection in the school hall. However, Parks can show great sensitivity to the significance of places and objects; a mobile phone that reappears several times, effectively registers the shifting boundary between public and private speech in the novel. The objects in Martin’s museum form a lapidary bulwark against the ravages of time and Martin’s demons. David Parks might sometimes sound like he’s swallowed a thesaurus rather than the sun, but he writes compellingly when telling a story and not thinking about fate. Bloomsbury, hardback, £14.99ARCHIVE: 0th week TT 2004last_img read more