Bibliophiliac is the space where one passionate, voracious reader reflects on books and the reading life. You will find reviews, analysis, links, and reflections on poetry and prose both in and out of the mainstream.

A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. Franz Kafka

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Review: Ordinary Thunderstorms

Ordinary Thunderstorms
William Boyd
Harper Perrenial
paperback, $15.99
403 pages
a copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher through TLC Book Tours

A River Runs Through It
Ordinary Thunderstorms begins and ends on the river Thames. Adam Kindred, a climatologist, is in London to interview for a job. He takes a walk along the river, then walks into a restaurant. A chance encounter then hurls Adam out of the life he knew, into a life he must invent as he goes along--always looking over his shoulder. Adam's identity, his assured place in the world, disappears, replaced by a life hidden, lived on the edges of society.

William Boyd has written a swiftly moving, intelligent novel that succeeds on many levels. Ordinary Thunderstorms succeeds at the narrative level: it tells a compelling story. This is a thriller with expert pacing. As Adam is forced to abandon his identity, his name, his credit cards, his history, and all that attaches him to the social fabric of life, he descends into a Dickensian underground, and this is where the novel really succeeds. The denizens of London's underworld: prostitutes, petty criminals, cab drivers, and a lethal, mercenary hit man give Ordinary Thunderstorms a gritty, bleak texture.

The underground London Adam disappears into is contrasted the the sleekly sinister world of corporate corruption. Throw into this mix an attractive police officer from London's Marine Support Unit who lives on the Thames in a converted battleship with her pot-smoking father. Ordinary Thunderstorms seamlessly brings together sharply drawn characters from London's highest social spheres to the invisible sphere at the bottom. Boyd clearly has a love affair with the city of London, and with the river that runs through it, and this intimate journey through the city is what finally had me loving Ordinary Thunderstorms.

If you like intelligent writing, plenty of narrative action, and novels that ask more questions than they answer, you will love Ordinary Thunderstorms.


Priya Parmar said...

ooh! i am about to start any human heart by boyd. have you read it?

Priya Parmar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

The phrase "Dickensian underground" was enough to convince me to read this one. :)

Thanks for being on the tour - I'm glad you enjoyed the book!

bibliophiliac said...

@Priya-I will be reading Any Human Heart soon-this was the first book I've read by Boyd, but I'm hooked.

bibliophiliac said...

@heathertlc-I'm reading Our Mutual Friend right now and the connections to Ordinary Thunderstorms are striking.

Grad said...

This sounds yummy. And I also have a love affair with London. I often say that if I was in my 20s, that's where I'd want to live.

Yvette said...

This sounds like something I'd like to read. I'm adding it to my TBR mountain. Thanks for an intriguing review.