This book was lent to me by a friend I met on holiday in Mexico and Guatemala. We have both travelled through parts of South America since then and she thought I might like this book because it is set in Ecuador.
The story is about two 15 year old boys who are friends. Anti tells us the story in retrospect, a short amount of time after the events he describes have happened. It is set pretty much in the present day. He is English, living a polite existence in an ex-pat bubble, quiet and a little unsure of himself. He becomes friends with Fabian at school, an adventurous and charismatic boy who lives with his unconventional uncle after the death of his parents. The two of them live on stories that they tell each other, enjoying each others ability to lend their imaginations to the everyday, bending reality to suit their will.
Anti loves to visit Fabian at his uncles grand house, where Anti is allowed a more liberal lifestyle than at his parents house. The only thing that is out of bounds is talking about the death of Fabian's parents. That is until one evening Fabian, aided by tequila, tells a fabricated version of their deaths in a road accident, where his mothers body was never found. Fabian believes she is still alive but has lost her memory. To help his friend, Anti constructs a newspaper article about an Amnesia clinic on the coast. Anti thinks that the rules of this game are clear, an indulgent story that keeps the reality at bay. That is until Fabian persuades Anti to skip school and go on an adventure with him to find the clinic that doesn't exist. From then on it is unclear who is playing what game and with who.
This book is a coming of age story that explores the use of construction to replace a painful reality, and how deeply those illusions can run and become confused. It is easy to read, although some sections are a little long winded. There are some interesting descriptions along the way. I enjoyed the episode in the service lift...
"The interior was padded with thick brown material, put there to absorb the blows of furniture or appliances as they were delivered to the show apartments above. It had absorbed more than that, too -the smells of stale sweat, of coffee and polution... It was as if I had momentarily slipped into an alternative version of reality. Even the ping of the doors...was louder, and more ragged, as if some crucial, restraining parts of its apparatus had been snapped off... I reached up, pressed button number seven and wiped the oily deposit this left from my fingertip on to the brown cladding. The machine jerked into action."
I found that the story held some surprising developments, especially towards the end, and it was difficult to predict exactly where it was going. I found the boys friendship a little unconvincing at times. Because it is based on lies and fabrications, and also on deep needs, it is never really warm, despite the way Anti describes it. I also found Fabian's tantrums annoying. I was left wondering why no one stood up to him. Mostly though, I found it a pleasant read that kept me interested on the whole, especially near the end. The place descriptions and South American setting intrigued me. However, I suspect that it did not have enough to remain in my thoughts much after it has finished. Time will tell.
To read an interview with James Scudamore, click on the following link...