Before I started Destiny, Tim Parks’s new novel set in Italy, I idly wondered if it might resemble Verdi’s opera La forza del destino, with its marvellous stormy music and its assurance that everything can be blamed on fate. But the narrator of this commanding novel turned out to be anything but operatic. Chris is an ailing Englishman in his fifties who does not know how to be the central character in his own life. It is his Italian wife who is prima-donna material – flamboyant, ardent, a wearer of brilliant lipsticks – and Chris has cast her at the centre of his story. She is always present in his head even though (or perhaps because) he is in the process of leaving her. At the beginning of the novel, Chris learn that their only son, Marco, a schizophrenic, has killed himself. And his death, Chris believes, marks the end of their marriage. What role does destiny play? That is anyone’s guess.
Tim Parks’s most recent non-fictional book, Adultery & Other Diversions, showed a shrewd understanding of betrayal, of sexual infidelity, of the treachery of being alive. He can write, at will, like a modern Henry James, proceeding with composure through a labyrinth (just read the novel’s opening sentence). He is interested