Be warned, if you pick up Taking Comfort you may well find it very hard to put down – and if you do there is a good chance someone else will pick it up and refuse to give it back.
Roger Morris’ tale of city life in a post 9/11 world taps into collective insecurities and is peopled by a cast of compelling and convincing characters. Many are unnervingly familiar – reminiscent of “people we know” in real life. The author uses multiple viewpoints to get inside the characters’ heads, and to explore their hopes and fears and dreams. Taking Comfort subtly invades the reader’s head as well. You may never feel the same way about fabric conditioner or Starbucks coffee cups again.
Rob, the main character goes through a crowded week in which the ordinary becomes extraordinary and the trophies he collects become talismans to keep at bay the terrors that threaten the security of his everyday life. Nothing that happens to Rob is beyond the bounds of possibility. Who hasn’t seen the grim announcements on the Underground and then as the next train pulls in shared in an almost tangible sense of relief that no one jumped this time?
The fact that Rob witnesses this random tragedy on his first morning in a new job and then finds it impossible to explain to anyone the true reason he is late sets up the tension and psychological complexity of the story. Rob’s increasingly obsessive behaviour becomes a natural progression as he seeks to make sense of a cycle of disturbing events spiralling out of control.
Taking Comfort is intelligent and inventive. Roger Morris’ style is engaging and intriguing and while you think you may see the inevitability of the ending unfolding like classic tragedy, there is one final deflection that genuinely surprised this reader. An interesting, satisfying and thought provoking read!
Excellent review. I second everything said.
A week after finishing it, the story is still reverberating around my head.
I might even say that it's a book that has in certain ways changed me, which is a rare and wonderful thing. But don't ask me to explain that because I won't really have an answer.
I recently finished Taking Comfort and it is indeed a rewarding read. The plot unfolds with subtlety and some flashes of dark humour. One of the main themes is the psychological impact of different brands and the way that we take comfort from them as familiar signposts in a maelstrom of everyday choices. The author's observations on working life are deadly accurate and should bring a shiver of recognition to anyone who has ever been caught up in venal office politics. The main character, Rob, uses trophies to 'protect' him from random urban violence and an ill-defined but ever-present sense of threat, which pervades the book. The nature of the threat is unspoken, but the book is suffused with the fear of terrorism and other anonymous crimes.
The use of multiple viewpoints is well-handled - the female characters are equally as convincing as the males - and gives the reader a strong sense of the wider context of the main character's increasingly bizarre experiences. The prose style of Taking Comfort has an edgy, experimental feel to it, which complements Rob’s strange process of disintegration. Repetition is used to great effect, building complex insights from simple and direct language: a prose analogue of minimalism in music.
Oh, and there’s a terrific twist at the end. So what are you waiting for, go out and buy a copy!
Forgot to say: nice review optimist.
I first posted these comments under 'Technique' but now realise I should have put them here.
When reading ww-member Roger Morris's excellent Taking Comfort I was struck by his skilful use of two techniques, both of which often feature in ww discussions - present-tense narration and multiple points of view.
I'm one of those people who can have a problem with present-tense narration, often tending to find it artificial or intrusive. However, I must say that Roger Morris's use of it in Taking Comfort works a treat. It is absolutely right both for the narration and for enabling us to 'be with' the characters and to be inside their mind as they travel through this most original and engaging story. Roger has achieved the sense of immediacy and involvement that so many writers have unsuccessfully aimed for with their use of the present tense. I've tried to work out why it works for me in Taking Comfort and I've concluded that it's because so much of the writing concerns what people are thinking and what they are like, which have great 'present-ness', rather than just straightforward narration of a story.
Using multiple points of view is neither unusual nor controversial, but it needs to be mentioned in connection with Taking Comfort not least because the author has used the technique in such a clever and sensitive way that the flow of the reader's interpretation of the novel is never adversely interrupted. He has achieved this particularly through presenting his characters first and foremost through their various relationships with products, with the products' features and with their branding, these constituting a continuous and consistent thread through the changes. This object-relationship device is used most intelligently and allows the author to expose his characters imaginatively without the need for the more usual description and explanation which would be considerably less compelling.
Taking Comfort is interesting on many technical counts but it is also a cracking read from any viewpoint. When I finished it (which was quite quickly because I was compelled to keep going) I felt that I had read something truly different. Don't miss it.
Just thought I'd add this here - if anyone wants to get a flavour of the book, I did a