15 May 2010

Burley Cross Postbox Theft

Back in December I got all excited about a new book from Nicola Barker, and yesterday I read it. It should be clear from the earlier post that it would have to be a very bad book for me not to love it. In fact it's brilliant, and really funny.

Here's the set-up. A post-box in a West Yorkshire village has been broken into, and the letters have been found in a binbag a few miles away. The letters are sent to a village policeman, who has the task of reading through them and trying to work out what's happened, and who's broken into the box. At the end of the book he gives his findings.

The whole book consists of the letters that were found, topped & tailed with letters giving the policeman his instructions and giving his findings.

The overall whodunit plot is quite slight, and really rather unimportant. What matters is the letters themselves, in which Nicola Barker brilliantly creates a variety of personalities and their intermeshing stories.

It's probably a book well-suited for me and my former colleagues. Reading through the letters is quite like reading a file of documents, and at times I was tempted to start a chronology and use post-it notes.
Even closer, one of the first letters is written to a council official by an aggrieved but chatty citizen. A long rambling letter, it contains 100 footnotes, one of which (64) reads "I will return to this important detail a little later!" How familiar is that?

Fair warning, though, that opinion on Amazon is evenly spread; clearly some people hate this book as much as I love it.

(If you want a proper review, there's a really good one in the Telegraph

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