Hospital by Toby Litt - review by Richard Godwin

Richard Godwin

The Dark Side of Er



Hamish Hamilton 511pp £14.99

Toby ‘English’ Litt opens the eighth of his projected twenty-six novels with a brilliant piece of defamiliarisation. He brings us in to land on the halogen-lit helipad of Hospital in a Dauphin XTP 3000 piloted by Hank ‘Cowboy’ Smith; Bill ‘Zapper’ Billson unloads an unidentified Caucasian male – plus a worried small boy – into the waiting hands of one Sir Reginald Saint-Hellier and his trauma team. Electric doors shoom; strip lights scroll. The language signifies science fiction – but it takes a second reading to confirm that no detail Litt has given us is especially futuristic, or inconceivable. In fact, this is pretty standard modern medical procedure. But isn’t it strange?

From Adventures in Capitalism alphabetically to his more subdued Ghost Story, Litt has proved a master of the strange. Hospital gets weird – voodoo porters dismember one another, a nurse made of rubber buxomly stalks the corridors on six-inch heels, Satanic rituals abound in the chapel – but it begins,

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

RLF - March