Book Review, “Intermission” by Owen Martell

by gurdeepmattu

I recently finished Intermission by Owen Martell (William Heinemann, 2013).  I read the title as an ePub proof on NetGalley.  The publishers have struck gold with Martell, as long as they don’t push him to write a Dan Brown style thriller.  Think of Jon McGregor’s If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things but add a beautiful attempt at an American literary vernacular that’s straight from DeLillo and Didion.  He’s written two books in Welsh, and this is his first in English.  It is astoundingly, annoyingly well-written and the sheer attention Martell pays to every sentence is the real marvel here.  The book is for fans of meticulous, brilliant prose – lavish swathes of pinpoint description.  I looked up Bill Evans (I hadn’t heard of him but quickly realised he is kind of a big deal in the jazz world) but the novel isn’t so much about Bill Evans as about life and living, with Bill Evans as an interesting central figure – it is about the quotidian, the feelings we experience in our dealings with other people and how a life is lived in proximity to other lives being lived.  The cover and the blurb hint at a writer from the Don DeLillo school and as big DeLillo fan some of the descriptions in this book made me think fondly of great passages from White Noise, or Underworld.  Martell has some way to go but the reviewers that dismiss this is ‘humdrum’, ‘boring’ or ‘irrelevant’ (Amazon reviewers) just aren’t getting what the book is trying to do.  A brilliant English language debut novel that I’d genuinely encourage you to read.

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