Rupert Thomson
The Book of Revelation

By Paul Gannaway

Thompson is widely acknowledged as one of England’s leading lights in the world of literature and his latest book goes all the way towards justifying this reputation. The Book of Revelation is just that; a brilliant, readable tale that reveals truths about humanity other authors would struggle to come to terms with, let alone document so compulsively, with such understanding of the complex network of experiences that form what we understand through emotion.

Thompson has now established a style that while not being overtly individual in a textual sense, is pretty much unique in its ability to burn into the reader all of the moods that the situations and locations cause his characters to feel. The big difference with this latest novel (and I here I confess to having only read two of his other four, but I’m working on it), is that there is a sense of direction and purpose that usually only manifests itself through the later parts of his books. With his last novel Soft, I felt no real emotion for the characters until the tragic ending – as if Thompson was deliberately setting you up into believing that despite the unfairness that ran throughout the characters’ lives, there was no way of feeling pity for the harshness of life until the bitter conclusion was reached. In The Book Of Revelation there is a steady building of engagement with the main character, and while he is not portrayed with any indulgent sentimentality or extended pathos, by the end you feel as if the learning experience his character has gone through is one the whole world should know about. This is surely the mark of a great writer.

‘But what’s it about?’ I’m sure you’d like to know by now. Well, simply put (because it’s a very simple idea) this is a book about the effects of abuse. The book starts in an Amsterdam back-street with the abduction of a successful young dancer. He is incarcerated, subjected to humiliating sexual abuse and then forced to come to terms with what has happened, oscillating between a desire for revenge and the need to forget what should never have happened to him. Do not expect the plot to develop pace as it goes on. What you are presented with is a road to recovery after the initial explicit rush of the dancer’s victimisation. However, as always, Thompson utilises the traits of a thriller to give the book an un-putdownable quality that his peers would surely struggle to match when dealing with such a heavy subject. The plot development is subtly drawn out, creating an engagement with the numerous characters that will engrave a little bit of their personalities onto your own – helping you to come to terms with what it means to find someone who you think that you know and love suddenly change for the worse, with no explanation and no way you can enquire into the problem. Because until the truth is made explicit, the secrets may not even exist in the mind of the victim.

This is therefore an incredibly important book. In an age when young writers are drawn towards a portrayal of the evils of society but find it too challenging to seek answers for their readers, Thompson has provided us with an experience that is so carefully crafted it inspires deep thought about the experience of others that we can know nothing about. A lost world of hurt and pain that stays hidden until only tragic circumstances can draw it out for the better.
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