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The Melody by Jim Crace

The Melody by Jim Crace
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£16.99

In 2013, when his Booker-shortlisted novel Harvest was published, Jim Crace said that it would be his last, said Anthony Cummins in The Observer. Maybe Crace, who has always relished fictional games, “has played us yet again, because here he is once more, on typically slippery form”. The Melodycentres on a “much-feted romantic singer, at the end of a long career”, said Sam Leith in The Daily Telegraph. Alfred Busi is a widower living in an unspecified European seaside town, sometime in the 20th century. Near the book’s start, he is attacked by a shadowy figure whom he disturbs rummaging around his larder, and the novel then “loosely circles” around this mystery. It’s hard to say, precisely, what it’s about – Crace, as ever, keeps things “elliptical” – but The Melody is still a “touching”, “well-made” novel.

It’s also an “increasingly strange” novel that at times risks becoming monotonous, said James Walton in The Times. Although each sentence is packed with “Crace’s characteristic lyricism”, overall it doesn’t “always avoid the thin line dividing the hypnotic from the mildly soporific”.