The Alarming Palsy of James Orr by Tom Lee - review by Elizabeth Howcroft

Elizabeth Howcroft

In a Fix

The Alarming Palsy of James Orr


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Few pieces of writing merit the word Kafkaesque, but the opening of Tom Lee’s first novel, The Alarming Palsy of James Orr, might be one of them: ‘When James Orr woke up, a little later than usual, he had the sense that there was something not quite right, some indefinable shift in the normal order of things.’ The protagonist experiences a sudden onset of Bell’s palsy, a form of facial paralysis. The condition is uncommon and its duration indefinite, but his doctor is nonetheless light-hearted. ‘In the long run,’ James is told, ‘only a small percentage do not return to more or less normal.’

Yet over the course of the novel, we watch James’s life unravel as his disfigurement persists. A management consultant living on a smart suburban estate, James is at his most likeable when set in opposition to the small-mindedness of the local community, in which he (involuntarily) chairs the residents’

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