The Companion by Lorcan Roche

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The Companion by Lorcan Roche

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Kerry King
Reviewed by Kerry King
Summary: Trevor Comerford, recently washed up and in New York, answers a Want Ad to become the nurse and companion of a young disabled boy called Ed. A tender tale of a man who is looking for himself in some unlikely places, The Companion is the debut novel of Irish playwright, Lorcan Roche and is most certainly one of the finest books you will pick up this and any year.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: July 2010
Publisher: Europa Editions
ISBN: 978-193337284

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Closeted away in the opulence of his parents' Madison Avenue apartment, Ed, bound to a wheel-chair because muscular dystrophy has laid claim to his body, spends his days veiled from the outside world. Ed's sadness manifests itself in curious ways, though largely, via spectacular, spoiled-brattish outbursts designed to get the parental attention he craves but that is palpably absent from his confined life. Then he meets Trevor.

Trevor Comerford sees the ad in The Village Voice. It speaks to him; literally – Roche imbues his character with an integral narrator characterised (in Trevor's mind's eye) as sounding much like Bob Hoskins or Ray Winstone. So he is told by Bob/Ray to apply for the job as nurse and companion to Ed, which he successfully does as, it turns out, whilst Trevor is a failed film student, he is also an ex-employee of the Central Remedial Clinic in Dublin and has the perfect qualifications for the job.

Trevor soon forms a bond with Ed, who, feeling trapped by the confines of his own flesh, presents Trevor with a myriad of issues with which to help him deal: an all-consuming hunger for the milk of human kindness; a yen strong enough to hollow out your soul for the touch of a tender hand - one filled with genuine affection and love. And Trevor gets it; he really does. He understands the marginalization and resulting anguish that Ed feels. He's seen it a hundred times though it never quite touched him in the same way.

In Trevor, the reader is offered a conduit through which to examine the human condition, defining the fragility of us all. Joyfully, Lorcan Roche has the gift of telling a story in a way quite unlike any other. Let me explain: Roche has created Trevor to be juxtaposed (I've been dying to use that word in a review) with irreverence and esteem, flippancy and solemnity and the darkness he feels within himself at times and the light he seeks to banish his own demons. How Roche can sensibly contrast his protagonist's character traits and make him comprehensible, logical, likeable and funny is a stroke of genius. The subject matter is profound and it would have been quite easy for Roche to get caught up in the gloom, but somehow Trevor brings out a belly laugh at exactly the right time without making fun of anyone but himself and he does that so subtly, the reader has no idea how it could be so funny aside from the fact that it just is.

In reading the above, I can see it sounds somewhat vague and possibly quite a short summary, given how completely excellent this novel is and also given how much I utterly loved it, but you must understand and appreciate that I don't want to spoil the plot in any way whatsoever and I don't want to lay Trevor wide open for anyone as discovering him for myself was much, if not all, of the charm of this novel. Roche uses Trevor to explain that life can be full of some of the worst experiences and there is no tying on a bow and making them pretty, however much you might want to try. But Trevor also demonstrates that if you just look at life from a different angle, it can also be packed with positivity and pleasure and sometimes there is just sheer joy in breathing.

In summary, Lorcan Roche is my new favourite author; this is an amazing novel and one of the best books I have read in years. Funny, dark, beautiful and frank and all at the same time, The Companion has pride of place on my virtual shelf, rubbing shoulders with The Household Guide to Dying by Debra Adelaide, Leaving the World by Douglas Kennedy, The Green Mile by Stephen King, Breakfast At Tiffany's by Truman Capote and, though it received mixed reviews, The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, because I found it simply captivating.

As that's mostly not just my virtual bookshelf, but also a further reading list I only need to mention The Clothes on Their Backs by Linda Grant, and Novel About My Wife by Emily Perkins, which is, frankly, superb, before thanking the generous ladies and gentlemen at Europa Editions for sending us this copy to review.

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