The Final Testimony of Raphael Ignatius Phoenix by Paul Sussman
|The Final Testimony of Raphael Ignatius Phoenix by Paul Sussman|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Luke Marlowe|
|Summary: The late Paul Sussman has his first written, but last published work released, and it is an absolute triumph. Hysterically funny, surprisingly moving, constantly astounding, frequently cynical and yet filled with wonder, The Final Testimony of Raphael Ignatius Phoenix is a must read, and one I will be reading again many times over.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 416||Date: December 2014|
|Publisher: Black Swan|
|External links: Author's website|
On the eve of the year 2000, Raphael Ignatius Phoenix decides that he has had enough. Having lived for a century, he takes his own life on the roof of his castle, swallowing a small white pill he has kept on his person for almost 90 years. In the days before, he had written his story all over the walls of the castle - a story that takes in an Edwardian childhood, Hollywood in the 1920's, the Second World War, life as a butler in a stately home, life in a rock band in the 60's, time spent in a nursing home, and finally life in the castle - amongst other, enchanting tales.
It's hard to write a review of a book whose author has recently died - whilst I have no issue telling people I'm not keen on Jane Austen, when an author has died recently I tend to feel that I should try my best to like a book, given that so much of the author tends to go into them.
Thankfully, The Final Testimony of Raphael Ignatius Phoenix is incredible. I have no idea how Sussman managed to write a story that encompasses so many periods, so many moods and so many situations, and yet maintains a wonderfully coherent story that entertains and delights. Raphael Ignatius Phoenix is not always a pleasant narrator - he kills an awful lot of people over the course of the book, but most (apart from possibly the poor albino twins and the unfortunately named Prince Gummy-Molars) certainly seem to have it coming. Phoenix is however wonderful company - and to see the last century through his eyes is a position that one feels honoured to be in.
I can't write about the negatives I encountered when reading this - as frankly I was far too charmed, engrossed and utterly delighted to encounter any. So many things are rolled into this story - the 60's tale feels like something from 'Spinal Tap', the war story something from 'The Great Escape' and the Hollywood tale reminded me of The New Confessions by William Boyd. However, all of these tales are completely original, and all fit together in a story that twists and reverses itself to a climax that genuinely brought a lump to my throat, swiftly followed by two afterwords that made me guffaw very loudly (and do note that I was reading this on the tube, where guffawing or in fact any display of emotion are strictly forbidden and punishable by glares).
A magical, endlessly fascinating book, it's a huge shame that Sussman didn't live to see this published. Thankfully, he had already achieved huge popularity with his series of books about Inspector Yusuf Khalifa of the Luxor Police (books I have not read but will be hunting down forthwith). Whilst I didn't know the author at all, it's hard not to feel that a lot of him is contained within The Final Testimony of Raphael Ignatius Phoenix. If so, he comes across as devastatingly funny, stupidly talented and wonderfully odd, making The Final Testimony of Raphael Ignatius Phoenix time spent in his company that I will recommend to as many people as I can, and time that I am immensely grateful for.
A huge thanks to the publishers for the copy - this is one to be read and reread over and over again.
I genuinely struggled to find of a book that I could compare to this one, but The Testimony of Raphael Ignatius Phoenix reminded me somewhat of Roald Dahl's writing for adults - The Complete Short Stories: Volume Two by Roald Dahl being a particular example. Darkly comic and yet often filled with a sense of wonder, they go extremely well together.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Final Testimony of Raphael Ignatius Phoenix by Paul Sussman at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Final Testimony of Raphael Ignatius Phoenix by Paul Sussman at Amazon.com.
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