I pick up a new novel by Lucy Ellmann with high hopes, expecting to be entertained and savaged in equal measure. On the strength of two previous novels – Sweet Desserts and Varying Degrees of Hopelessness – she has established herself as a novelist with lots to say and a uniquely personal way of saying it.
Man or Mango does not exactly disappoint. It is stylish , fluent, funny, inventive. But the anger and desperation which fuel her inventiveness have got the upper hand, landing her in a cul-de-sac with her engine boiling. I ended up almost as angry as she is, longing for her to reverse out of her predicament and speed off in a new direction.
Her anger is sufficiently well-founded. The Holocaust hangs over the narrative like a black cloud. How can we go on with our lives, knowing what happened? ‘How do we carry on, stepping over the smashed babies’ heads?’ But it’s not just the Holocaust. She presents a universe in which doom,