Glen Duncan

I’m surprised that Glen Duncan’s fiction isn’t better known. With the exception of his last book I have read each of Glen Duncan’s eight books. Each book has its flaws but also contains moments of exquisiteness.

The most accomplished of the eight is The Bloodstone Papers, with its study of a father-son relationship and evocation of 1940s India. It is here I would recommend dipping into Duncan’s oeuvre. To whet your appetite here is one of several excerpts I recorded into my commonplace book:

Stairs, handrails, newels, benches, trestles, desks, kneelers, sills – Jesus and Mary Convent School has been Kate’s introduction to things with a sad history of touch. The pathos of these objects is that they stay and you leave. Every girls’ palms and fingertips and feet and knees, intimacy – then gone. You can feel sorry for a coat-hook, a doorknob, a bowl, a chair. When you sit on the stairs alone with your arms around your shins and your palms or calves on fire from the cane, the dark wood offers you its inarticulate sympathy, a moment you take, consume and forget but which it absorbs and will remember, uselessly, for ever. Some future girl will sit here and feel the same sympathy, years from now. You’ll be a part of it, but she won’t know and neither will you. That’s the objects’ sadness, that they connect the private moments of people who will always remain strangers.

The Bloodstone Papers, though moving, is an atypical Glen Duncan book. His fiction is powerfully dark, with flashes of humour. If exploring Duncan’s dark-side is more appealing Love Remains explores sexual violence and guilt. It is also very, very good.

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