Vault is a compact novel comprising brief chapters marked A or B. The A chapters pertain to a fictionalised version of the narrator of the B chapters. The B chapters are “factual” rebuttals of the novel. No wonder Vault’s subtitle is “An anti-novel”. It sounds complex, but the divisions are smartly done. B is written mainly in clear, clipped prose, whereas A employs (slightly) more flourishes of language.
A cyclist becomes a wartime sniper and afterwards something of a vigilante, and then an unofficial spy. He also falls in love and cycles competitively. That’s a pretty huge range to cover, but there is no padding, no filler in Rose’s writing and the novel is 158 pages.
His character is a loner whose aloofness serves to distance him from those around him, and his readers. Even when describing the love of his life he blankly states: “But this was all a long time ago and, later, she left me.” Nonetheless, the impact of some scenes, I’m thinking of the sniper waiting patiently to kill, and later, after the war, protecting a woman who has received food from an aid station, is heightened by the tightly controlled descriptions.
The cycling sections are beautifully exhilarating and offer welcome relief.
And how wonderful is that cover!
Rose is clearly a fine writer and I’m looking forward to reading his short story collection – Posthumous Stories, which I’ve just treated myself to.