The House of Rumour by Jake Arnott

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The House of Rumour by Jake Arnott

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: If you like your books to have a plot then this isn't for you. It's clever, it's innovative and occasionally quite extraordinary.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: July 2012
Publisher: Sceptre
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0340922729

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Jake Arnott sees to be one of those authors - like Will Self whom you'll love or loathe. Occasionally, you'll swing from one extreme to the other and I'll confess to being a little nervous when I opened the book. We really weren't that keen when we read The Devil's Paintbrush. Using the deck of Tarot cards as the structure of the book we look at the twentieth century through the life of Larry Zagorski. Imagine history being gently folded together like a cake mixture with episodes sliding against each other, flavouring that which they touch. Imagine the real - Aleister Crowley (reprising his appearance in The Devil's Paintbrush), Rudolf Hess, Ian Fleming, Cyril Connolly, Jim Jones and L Ron Hubbard blended with a transexual prostitute, a British pop singer and Larry, who writes pulp science fiction.

If you're trying to imagine a plot which could encompass all these disparate personalities then don't because 'plot' isn't a word which I would readily associate with The House of Rumour. Think instead in terms of a series of linked digressions and the idea that - random as they might seem - they are connected. The edges of history are being gently blended with teasing hints of how the future might have been different.

It is clever - and I don't mean that as a criticism but rather as an acknowledgement of the research, the building of the structure and the sheer imagination behind the book. The ambition behind it is breathtaking. It's not - intentionally, I'm certain - a book which you can settle into comfortably. In those brief moments when you do find yourself going with the flow you're quickly shaken out of your complacency. I was surprised by the extent to which I enjoyed the trip.

I'm left with the feeling that Arnott has the potential to write a great novel. This isn't it but he's definitely an author to watch. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

If this book appeals then you might also enjoy The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman.

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