Of the handful of novels written solely in dialogue, such as Losing Battles by Eudora Welty, JR by William Gaddis or Deception by Philip Roth, the most successful have been the books that have to be told in dialogue alone, such as Nicholson Baker’s Vox. A book-length conversation between two people on a sex-line, Baker’s novel would have gained nothing from any additional description alongside the main exchange.
The Girl Who Was Going to Die is a less successful dialogue novel because Glyn Maxwell seems to have chosen the form to serve his own strengths as a writer, rather than because it suits the story he wants to tell. He is also a playwright and poet, and while this novel is certainly enlivened by his skills with dialogue and imagery, it lacks a dramatic centre. This isn’t helped by his decision to record only his characters’ conversation.
Despite these problems, there is much to admire in this book. There have been many novels published in recent years that address the subject of international terrorism, but this book contains one of the most original conceits. After the bombing of a film set in London, the media become obsessed