The End of Mr Y – Scarlett Thomas

Well, I looked around quite a bit to find this one. I’d read a review of it in The Age that said it was quite good so I thought well it looks interesting, I’ll give it a go.
As with any new book, when you’ve bought it you can’t wait to get home to crack the covers and begin. I had to wait a little while as it was school holidays and I had a job application to write as well. Once I got started however, I was drawn in easily. It’s about a girl called Ariel, who lives in Oxford and is doing a PhD in English Literature focussing on nineteenth century authors particularly those who used scientific ideas and the more arcane idea of ‘thought experiments’. It begins with a building falling down and Ariel finding a rare manuscript. This just happens to be one that she is working on, but before you go ‘Oh No! too contrived’, I have to let you know that there is a good narrative twist that explains this fortunate event. The thought experiment part of the narrative begins to take over and Ariel finds a recipe for a method of entering what the 19th century author Lumas calls the troposphere and the CIA call MindSpace. I’ve already given too much away now, the astute reader will be able to see the links here.
Anyway, things go along at a cracking pace and the author who likes references to Derrida and post modernity will be satisfied. I do confess to some doubts, religion gets credited with power, the power of human thought, which may be plausible, but not completely satisfying in a novel which references the simulacrum a la Baudrillard so often.

Warning: There was a terrible moment, when I nearly gave up as the plot let me down. At one stage Ariel has met a hunky ex-priest who is smitten by her as he senses she’s quite, ahem, experienced. He takes her to a shrine, because she needs holy water. The shrine of St Jude. She asks him who St Jude was!!!! seriously, she’s read and studied Hardy, what was Thomas thinking?
Don’t let this put you off. It was still an entertaining read and thought provoking too, what more can you ask for on holidays?

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