|The Schism by Robert Dickinson|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Iain Wear|
|Summary: Dickinson's observational writing is of the highest quality, but there wasn't a story here I ever felt I could get involved in. A well-written but mundane book is still, disappointingly, a mundane book.|
|Buy? No||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 304||Date: March 2013|
|Publisher: Myriad Editions|
|External links: Author's website|
My girlfriend looked at the back of Robert Dickinson's The Schism and decided that it was just the kind of book I would enjoy. Which was a fair comment, as I'd done the same. A book that promised a man's world thrown dramatically out of kilter, that was sharp, compassionate and darkly comic and which shows what happens when the lives of those you care about are suddenly, terrifyingly, at risk would be exactly the kind of thing I would enjoy. If only what was in front of the back cover had been anything like that, this would have been a great book.
Patrick Farrell works for a company that reclaims credit cards from those in debt. He doesn't particularly enjoy the work, but it gives him plenty of opportunity to visit his schizophrenic brother, Mike, which he does regularly. Mike used to be a fairly decent boxer, but now his only fight is against the paranoid delusion that there are people watching him all the time.
Patrick's life looks to be picking up when he is introduced to Jane, who in turn introduces him to some of her friends. These friends have an interest in the occult which Patrick doesn't agree with, but they seem like decent people, if a little strange. Various groups are seeing the future differently, but the only one who gives Patrick cause for concern is Joshua Painter, who they all seem to have fallen out with and who Patrick has run across a couple of times in the course of his job.
The Schism does have its moments, but they were few and far between. Patrick Farrell's life was well written in its mundane passage between work and the hospital to visit Mike. His scepticism at the beliefs and activities of Jane's friends comes across clearly and there is one scene at a dinner party where they all argue with each other is particularly realistic and well observed. Patrick's obvious love for his brother, even in difficult circumstances, is nicely presented and contrasts beautifully with the indifference of their parents for both of their sons and particularly their mother's inability to cope with what has happened to Mike.
But some decent writing doesn't hide the fact that the book never really seems to get going. When the plot picks up later on in the book, it didn't make me feel involved in any way. The risks that the book's cover spoke of never really came to pass and whilst I could see that Patrick may have cause for concern about his brother, there wasn't the suddenness or the drama that the book had promised. At no point did the book pick up to the point that a descent into any terrifying situations seemed imminent or obvious. Things changed, but not to the extent that the story ever seemed much more than a continuation of the mundane.
Perhaps Dickinson's intention was more to imply future events rather than stating them implicitly and I've largely missed the point. But this was a book that seemed to be all scene setting and no progression. I kept waiting for something to happen that would justify many of the phrases that the blurb used, but I kept finding nothing. There was a brief flash towards the end where a few things all came together, but that was all too brief and, by the point it arrived, it would have taken a lot more than was there to encourage me to think I had enjoyed the story.
This is certainly one of the most realistic portrayals of boring, everyday life that I've seen in some time. The problem is that many of us like to read to escape that and The Schism doesn't allow that. There are some moments of very good writing, particularly the poignancy and compassion of the last few pages, but there was too much to struggle with before that point to lift me up and get me involved in the story in any way.
At the back of the book is an excerpt from The Noise of Strangers, which enticed me more in a few pages than this book did throughout.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Schism by Robert Dickinson at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Schism by Robert Dickinson at Amazon.com.
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