Now You See Him by Eli Gottlieb

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Now You See Him by Eli Gottlieb

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: George Care
Reviewed by George Care
Summary: A moving examination of a boyhood friendship and a declinig marriage. Written in a pacy, flowing style and deeply affecting as it portrays early success turning to mind-numbing failure.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: June 2009
Publisher: Serpent's Tail
ISBN: 978-1846687105

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Nick Framingham is utterly beguiled by his childhood friend and hero, Rob Castor, who disappears after having killed his ex-girlfriend and fellow novelist, Kate, in Chinatown, Manhattan. This has a catastrophic effect upon Nick from whose viewpoint the story is related in a fast paced narrative. As Nick says: It was as if the violent subtraction of Rob from life had produced a wind of sorts, a strong cross draft that had blown away the fake stage set of my paternity, and in doing so, helped speed the ruin of my marriage, estranged me from my children, sent my father into hospital…

He and his long-suffering wife, Lucy, have already resorted to therapy with an overweening New Age counsellor, Purefoy. This is an intriguing story about the convoluted mid-life crisis of Nick as he further undermines his relationship with his wife in the pursuit of another blast from the past - his old flame and Rob's wayward sister, the radiant hippy, Belinda. Nostalgia for adolescence is one of the major theme of the book.

As you read the tale which Nick relates, much of it very funny, perhaps a touch manic, you become aware of a radical change to a darker tone, especially as he approaches Rob Castor's final decline. Until recently he'd been an admired and acclaimed writer. The whole story is not going to be revealed until the last gripping pages, which are both sorrowful and poignant. Nick only slowly reveals the truth about himself to us.

Eli Gottlieb is not only a significant writer but also a poet who speedily interweaves into the plot varied references from Kafka to Shakespeare and from popular astronomy to bionicles and hippogriffs. There are brief, informative touches which vividly illustrate aspects – including the hard edges - of life in New York, Monarch and Arizona, the distortion of events by media hype and the fragile condition of modern marriage. Gottlieb, however, is at his most effective in his character depiction.

There's Rob's alcoholic mother, as sexually predatory as any Mrs Robinson, and inclined to the blowsy behaviour of the actress she had always wanted to become. Although she later appears more gentle in her terminal nursing of Rob's father who has strayed with traumatic consequences. Or is she just playing another part in the lives of the men around her? Men she seems to despise - with the possible exception of her tender hearted son - but she was also very dubious about the ease with which he was seduced by what she saw as the Little Bo-Peep act of Kate, Rob's wife.

Another memorable figure is the therapist Purefoy whose marriage counselling seems covertly angled on the seduction of Nick's wife, the long-suffering, headstrong Lucy. Although, it must be said she doesn't have an easy time putting up with Nick's constant self involvement. Purefoy conducts his sessions by striking poses, especially with his glasses and when finally Nick's desperation and anger erupts, Purefoy is totally unable to handle the situation and the relationship between Lucy and Nick worsens further.

This is a story in which a whole range of emotions and beliefs are examined. Now You See Him illuminates the ways in which the transgressions and mistakes of one generation are visited upon their children. It touches again and again upon fatherhood and upon the nature of friendships between men. It unflinchingly moves from humour to raw extremes of feeling including passion, guilt and remorse and in doing so it provides a metaphor for the concerns of modern America. Eli Gottlieb has written a thought provoking and unusual novel that keeps you reading towards its heart rending conclusion.

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

If this book appeals to you then you might also enjoy Dreams of Rivers and Seas by Tim Parks.

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Buy Now You See Him by Eli Gottlieb at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Now You See Him by Eli Gottlieb at


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