|Waiting for the Electricity by Christina Nichol|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: Corruption, no electricity, bossy geographical neighbours and a scarcity of good wife material make Slims want to leave Georgia for the US. A satirically biting debut that's a surface of smiles, with layers of thought provocation beneath.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 336||Date: March 2015|
|Publisher: Overlook Press|
|External links: Author's website|
|ISBN: 978- 0715649879|
Slims Achmed Makashvili is determined to leave his native Georgia. It's a country buffeted and often invaded by its neighbours and plagued with lack of amenities. On hearing that Hilary Clinton is running a competition, the prize for which is a trip to the States and knowing all he has to do is overstay his visa for a better life, Slims' letters to Hilary begin. Eventually he gets to the US but… Well, be careful what you wish for.
Christina Nichol is American and has taught in, among many places, Georgia (the nation, not the state). Therefore it's not surprising that she combines the two nations in her debut novel. The surprises come when we consider that it is a debut. It packs a huge satirical punch, creating a fast romp for those of us who like to concentrate on a good story with more beneath for those of us who like to be sent away with thoughts on which to ruminate.
In a way the novel is almost a mirror image of itself, but not in a high fallutin' metaphysical way. Initially maritime lawyer Slims becomes the host to a British geologist, Anthony, who's investigating holes in his company's oil pipeline and has his own suspicions. Although not innocent normally, Anthony is the innocent abroad here and the inadvertent pawn in Slim and friends' plans. Then Slims goes to the US and, hey presto, the tables are turned as he becomes the innocent alien.
In this way Christina draws comedy from our surprise at the apparent backwardness of Georgia followed by the observations of how Slims sees our 'modern' western world with an Eastern European humour akin to the wonderful Jewish comedic tradition. (We're treated to loaded one-liners like We [Georgians] only get homesick in our own country.] However the laugh is on us when we realise this amusing naïve may not be that daft after all.
Indeed, one of the highlights for me is Slims attendance of an American business seminar. I won't spoil anything just don't have anything in your mouth till you've read it. Wouldn't want you to choke or splatter!
Actually splattering could well describe the novel's style – in a good way. We're moved (at breakneck speed sometimes) from vignette to vignette as the digs and observations teach as much as amuse. For instance Slims has a jocular way of telling us that the Georgians have no electricity for weeks at a time as this encourages the population to buy state-sponsored oil. Then, once we stop smiling we're left with the more serious connotations.
The lawyer's letters to Hilary Clinton as he tries to get a free ticket to the US are just as wonderful. For instance he assumes that the Americans will naturally know where his home city is as there was a chess championship there once, without realising the geographical myopia with which many Americans are stricken.
From beginning to end this is a spell binding story that I dare anyone to finish without finding that there's one lawyer in the world who is actually loveable. In fact I predict a fair bit of recognition for Slims, Christina and Waiting for the Electricity. After all, it's stylistically similar to Adam Johnson's The Orphan Master's Son and that won the Pullitzer!
Thank you to the good folk of Overlook Press for providing us with a copy for review.
Further Reading: We would be remiss if we didn't point you towards Adam Johnson's aforementioned prize winner so we will.
You can read more book reviews or buy Waiting for the Electricity by Christina Nichol at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Waiting for the Electricity by Christina Nichol at Amazon.com.
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