Chris Power’s first novel performs a wonderful kind of magic trick. It’s a study of alienation that manages to be never less than engaging, a depiction of emotional emptiness that is packed with emotion, and an account of one man’s bleached-out perspective on life that is rendered in sharp and colourful detail. This is a book that is happy to play a postmodern game of hide-and-seek with the reader. Yet artifice never subsumes feeling. It is also – should your heart sink at the word ‘alienation’ – a thriller that genuinely thrills. I haven’t enjoyed a debut novel so much for a long time.
The lonely man of the title is Robert Prowe, a once-flavour-of-the-month English writer who lives with his Swedish wife, Karijn, and their two children in Berlin, where he is failing to write his second book. In a bookshop one day he meets a fellow Londoner, Patrick, who is slurring his