I bought this book because it was deal of the day a little while ago, and because it sounded like I might like it. I wasn’t aware of who Mark Watson is (though I might have confused him with Mark Haddon of Curious Incident fame). Turns out he’s a stand-up comedian and I have seen him on TV. His one of those people who are not quite a household name but you’d recognise from being on Mock the Week or whatever. Anyway all this is just to say I’m glad in a way that I hadn’t known/remembered that and read this as “just” another book.
Eleven is the story of Xavier Ireland who is originally from Australia but living in London and working as a DJ on a call-in radio show in the early hours of the morning. Whilst on his show he’s happy to dispense “common sense” advice in his life outside work he takes a much less interventionist approach. He’s happy to let things lie and not get involved. Whether that’s in the lives of his neighbours or the course of his own career. Then one day he goes to a speed dating evening where he doesn’t find a date but does find a new cleaner.
I enjoyed this book a lot and to be honest I wasn’t sure I was going to. For one thing it’s written mostly in the present tense and I find that a little irritating. However once I was engrossed in Xavier’s story that slipped away and I soon forgot to notice. For another the book does a thing where we are shown a series of apparently unconnected characters and what they are doing at a particular moment in time – near the start of the book. Throughout the book we then keep revisiting these characters and start to see the connections. I thought I wasn’t going to enjoy this structure because I was mostly interested in Xavier. However this took up less time than I thought – there was still plenty of space for Xavier, including his backstory and why he left Australia. Also there were some funny and touching moments in the others’ stories.
This is a book about consequences. It’s about the unfathomable chains of events that can occur and not only how we can be connected in surprising ways, but how one can never really predict the outcome of our actions, and so ultimately how it’s not necessarily “safer” to not get involved than to be more proactive.
I liked this book because of the characters. Not only were the main characters well drawn they were sympathetic and likable. I also felt that the book was warm about all its characters, even the ones with less going for them. It felt humane and hopeful and I liked that. I had a slight problem with the very end which I can’t really talk about without spoiling. But let’s just say I choose to put a certain interpretation on the events at the end of the book because it’s the way I want it to be.
8/10 – a warm-hearted web of inter-connected stories.
TBR still at 256 – which I’m happy with.