Catch by Simon Robson

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Catch by Simon Robson

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: Catharine spends her days waiting for her husband, a human-rights lawyer to come home from work and by night she tries to conceive a child. In this powerfully written narrative she reflects on every detail of her life, both past and present, including encounters with friends, neighbours and family.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: January 2011
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-0224090230

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Catharine's husband Tom is away on business in Birmingham, and so Catharine awakes alone for the first time in their little cottage at the end of their lane. They moved there a few months previously, and since then Catharine has spent her days quietly awaiting her husband's return from work. She is sure that she will figure out, some day, what her purpose in life is. She thought it might be to have a baby, but they have been trying for some time and it hasn't happened as yet. Meanwhile she waits, and thinks, and waits. In the lounge stands her piano, a stark reminder of the life she didn't manage to realise because although she studied music she found, quite quickly, that in spite of being passionate she lacked any kind of talent for it whatsoever. So, on this day, alone at home, Catharine finds herself tormented by the piano's presence and over-thinking every second of the day. She worries away at who she is, and what her life is, as her loneliness and the day itself unravel around her.

There aren't convenient 'stop' points in this story. No chapters, or sub chapters. I found myself reading on and on, unable somehow to just stop mid-page and allow myself a break. Because of this the story has a wonderfully continuous feel about it, so that as the day passes for Catharine it passes too for the reader, experiencing the day as she does. I felt a strange tie to Catharine, both liking her and hating her from page to page. Sometimes I could sense exactly where she was coming from, as if she were a real friend that I knew, whereas at others I felt angry that she would suddenly seem a clunking, pretend female character written by an obviously male writer. This flip-flop feeling seemed to continue through the book, as I half-loved, it half-loathed it. Catharine's endless internal questioning can feel quite draining, but then again, much of the time I was engrossed in the story.

The tale isn't entirely dominated by Catharine as she does engage in some encounters with others in the village, however the focus remains on her at all times. The other supporting roles are from some intriguing characters, and helped to move the story along and stop it stagnating with Catharine's thoughts. I liked the busy-body neighbour, Valerie Mountjoy, very much. She's another screwed-up woman, and the argumentative inter-play between them is funny and clever and frustrating. The whole story leads into a big denouement with Catharine's old friend, Maria, coming to visit. I personally felt the story fell down at the end. I guessed at what was coming, and then didn't really like how the story worked itself out. Still, I'm a bit of a sucker for a happy ending, so if that's not on your list of requirements for a book then you'll probably be happier than I was with the ending. Anyway, this was definitely an interesting, thought-provoking book, and makes me want to take a look at what else he's written, or will write in the future.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

For something still literary, but with more places to stop for a cup of tea, try The Complete Novellas by Agnes Owens or Too Many Magpies by Elizabeth Baines. The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek is also well-worth reading.

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