The Canal by Lee Rourke

I’m really late with this one but The Canal by Lee Rourke is a bloody fab read. I went to Bristol last weekend for the short story festival and met lots of writer chums. Inevitably the subject of books came up and I raved about this. At the bookshop we were asked to do a new bookseller recommendations bay and I said The Canal was my read of the year so far – I figured it was about time I mentioned it on my blog as well.

It surprised me. What I thought I knew about The Canal was that it’s a meditation on boredom, and I didn’t find that a wholly enticing prospect. I picked it up and put it down a few times before I settled to it. I always approach fiction hoping to love what I read but it rarely happens.

The Canal is good. Really good. It’s not a meditation on boredom at all, although of course boredom plays its part. This is a story that builds and builds and it’s a gripping, absorbing read. A man sits by a canal and thinks. His thoughts, thankfully, are interesting. A woman sits next to him. They talk. They meet regularly, the man becoming increasingly obsessive about seeing her, and the story unfolds.

Rourke uses repeated prose to great effect, giving the novel a “real life” feel and a firm sense of place. I marvelled at how he described the canal so beautifully, with many fresh images. He’s skilled at creating snapshots of London life, from a woman yelling at her dog, to a group of youths whose menace crackles off the page. His writing is damn fine, and to my delight it became a novel I didn’t want to put down.

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