Review: Something to answer for – P.H.Newby (1969 winner)

This is my first book review for the challenge! Let me know what you think and if there’s anything you think I should be including in these posts!

Some thoughts on the book:

‘Something to answer for’ is the story of Townrow, a Englishman (or is he Irish? Or American?) in Port Said, Egypt in the 1950s in the midst of the Suez crisis. Townrow has recently returned to Port Said (having previously served there as a soldier) from England at the request of his friend Elie’s widow. The widow, Mrs Khoudry believes Elie was murdered and wants Townrow to uncover the truth.

The book feels choppy, like the boats Townrow finds himself on both in his dreams and reality.  I felt like the story gets lost on occasion in the midst of Townrow’s confusion and delirium and although I think Newby has used this as a means of conveying Townrow’s complicated character, and the confusion of a town at war, it can be too much.  I found it easy to lose track of what’s actually happened,  what’s a dream, what’s a lie and what small proportion of things in the book have actually happened.

Although I didn’t find Townrow to be a likeable character, I was still hopeful throughout the book that at somepoint the fog over Townrow would lift, but I’m not convinced it ever did, either for Townrow or me as a reader.  I’m not really sure I liked any of the characters, everyone has an ulterior motive or plan which keep unravelling as the story (and the battle for the Suez canal) develops.

A couple of quotes: 

“Under a shower a man was alone without being lonely”

“This was how you made use of uncertainty and confusion: fuel to lift you from the launching pad. They were driving him in a marvellous trajectory of hope and love.”

The verdict: I think if this has been a book I’d just picked up off the shelf without it being part of my challenge I’d of given up a couple of chapters in (but the whole point of this challenge is to get me reading different things!) but I persevered, although I don’t feel any particular satisfaction in having finished it.

Format read: Kindle [downloaded from Amazon £5.99]

Date finished: 23 November 2013

Something to answer for

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