The Many by Wyl Menmuir
Published by Salt Publishing in 2016
My copy: Library
Timothy Buchannan buys an abandoned house on the edge of an isolated village on the coast, sight unseen. When he sees the state of it he questions the wisdom of his move, but starts to renovate the house for his wife, Lauren to join him there. When the villagers see smoke rising from the chimney of the neglected house they are disturbed and intrigued by the presence of the incomer, intrigue that begins to verge on obsession. And the longer Timothy stays, the more deeply he becomes entangled in the unsettling experience of life in the small village.
This book was chosen by my book group – it probably isn’t one I would have chosen myself but I actually liked the sound of it from the blurb. However it was on the Man Booker longlist which sometimes makes me a bit dubious as I have mixed experiences with these books, but at 160 pages I felt I didn’t have too much to lose!
The book is told from the points of view of Ethan, a fisherman in the tiny town where Timothy, our other narrator, has recently moved to. Timothy is met with complete hostility and is basically ignored to begin with, but then finds himself helping out on Ethan’s boat.
At the root of the locals’ hostility seems to be the death of the man who had previously lived in Timothy’s house. He is curious to find out more about the mysterious Perran, but his questions are met with frosty silence at best, violence at worst.
I read this book in a few hours and have no idea at all what to make of it. Lots of odd things happen – there are strange fish, a mysterious woman in a grey coat who appears for no reason, not to mention dreams that go on for pages and pages. There is also a twist after around 100 pages which leads us to believe that the whole story may not be what it seems – but we never really find out for sure.
Ultimately I was bored by this book. Nothing happens, the town where the novel is set is horrible in every way, there is too much boring stuff about fishing – and then maybe the whole thing was a dream after all. Who knows. But either way I finished this feeling it was all a bit too clever for me, and that I couldn’t really get bothered trying to get my head around it all.
My rating: 4 out of 10