Friday, 10 April 2009

Underground Man - Mick Jackson

Read: June 2008

The Underground Man is one of those uncomplicated, absolutely charming novels which you wish you could read all the time. Mick Jackson writes with the brevity and technical acumen of a literary master like J.M. Coetzee, and the warm-hearted sensitivity of a loved childhood author such as Michael Morpurgo. I absolutely loved it. Indeed, I am thoroughly jealous that anyone could write such a simple and beautiful book as this.

An old, reclusive Duke has just completed the construction of a series of tunnels under his vast estate. For what purpose, he is not entirely sure. Probably because he has never felt entirely comfortable around people. He is inordinately wealthy but getting on in years, without an heir to take over the estate when he passes. Many of the staff he has lived with throughout his life are beginning to get a little old as well. It is all rather depressing. And yet his imagination appears to know no bounds. As he searches for an explanation for the malaise that seems to be engulfing him he begins to retreat further and further underground, into the heart of his family estate, and the memories which dwell there. But all is not as it seems and the Duke is far from content. A strange young boy seems to be floating around him, and there are memories which demand to be noticed.

With his creative imagination and erudite description, the Duke’s unique mind is brought dazzlingly alive. He ponders how apple trees work, whether his insides are colour-coded, and what happens to all the huge whale bones at the bottom of the ocean. He is lovable, thoroughly original and oh so sympathetic. I can’t think of a character I have wanted to take under my wing and care for more than the Duke.

There is virtually no plot, just the delightfully eccentric and amusing mind of the Duke, as he dallies through everyday life, and slowly begins to descend into madness. I gave it to my dad a couple of months ago and he loved it too. I simply cannot recommend it highly enough.

9 out of 10

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