I really don't often give up a whole day to read a novel from cover to cover but just every now and again a book grips me so tightly everything else that I might have planned to do with my day just falls by the wayside and I snuggle down and read, not stopping until the final full stop.
I couldn't be happier that the book in question this time is IN LOCO PARENTIS by the ridiculously talented Nigel Bird. I've read many of Nigel's short stories and his cracking novella, Smoke, so since I heard that there was a novel on the horizon, I've been salivating.
I never dreamt that it would be this good though. How wonderful must it be to start off a writing project and end up with a truly classic tale? There are so many points of interest in this novel that all deserve the highest praise.
The novel's construction is a continuous stream of perfectly hewn nuggets of observation. The style is minimal with Bird only communicating the minimum information you need to know to move the plot along and to examine the emotional state of the characters. There is no endless descriptive passages or pointless dialogue; if these did ever exist, Bird has surgically removed every spare ounce of fat leaving a lean and clean text that is as fresh as a bright winter's morning with the light dazzling off the frost encrusted trees.
Although the main character in the book is a primary teacher, do not be fooled into thinking that this is a bit of a mushy story about kids. Nothing could be farther from the truth. It's the kind of noir writing that I love; a central character who's set on a self destructive mission, already damaged and slipping further down into his own personal hell with every twist and turn of the plot.
IN LOCO PARENTIS is a drug-fuelled, violent scream at life where victims of all shapes, ages and flavours hit against each as if they are being flipped around inside a pinball machine; out of control and clinging to any ropes they can find to help them survive another day.
Bird describes the violence, sex and drugs extremely well. You feel the immobiliser smack against your head, the sex is raw and complicated with a variety of emotions and motives as the characters struggle to find the comfort they desire, and the drugs bring the angst together like a fog swirling around the characters until they become totally lost in a world where right and wrong become impossible to differentiate.
Beautiful, painful and excruciatingly brilliant writing. Nigel Bird is a writer of the highest quality. Don't miss out.
About the author
Find out more about Nigel Bird over at his blog Sea Minor