Fat Hen (novel)
(London: Fourth Estate, 1999; London, Fourth Estate, 2000 [pb]).
Like Taking Apart the Poco Poco, a novel of family life, but in this case the time-scale is eight years (1947-55) rather than a single day. In fact the story begins half a century earlier, when young Ernest Willis commits an act of betrayal which threads its way through the lives of all concerned. Now a grandfather, Ernie is obsessed by judicial executions, along with the novels of Walter Scott in which he tries to discover clues to his own life, while his daughter Rose has an experience with another woman for which she can find no words at all. Meanwhile her husband Jack lives a double life funded by a discovery made in a secondhand piano, and young Donald, their son, struggles towards adolescence, convinced he actually died at the age of six.
“This beautifully paced, bitter-sweet novel” (T.L.S.)
“Avoiding any hint of blatancy, relying on oblique dialogue and mental uncoilings, the novel works by stealth – taking some of the various obsessions on display . . . and using them to bring contours to an initially shapeless world.” (D.J.Taylor, The Guardian)