Sense of Belonging


Belonging is itself something of a serpent’s tale – one of the most spine-tingling sequences is a do-or-die situation involving the hands-on killing of a poisonous snake. This takes place in the sultry heat of the Spanish mountains, a dramatically contrasting context to the crystalline iciness of the Swiss Alps, where the novel opens. butlinr01pic2.jpg

Jack and Anna are caretaking a luxury apartment complex, and off-season make full use of the facilities – a foaming jacuzzi here, a bottle of Bolly there. Jack is the proverbial lad, Anna is congenitally insecure in relationships with men, with good cause apparently. Within two pages Jack has lied to her, and, brashly incompetent, has also been caught out. In this case his reflexive duplicity concerns the arrival of a rainbow haired nymph and a man old enough to be her father to stay in one of the apartments. The slippery way Jack elides the fact that he has actually seen them is only the tip of the Matterhorn. Not very long after, he is slipping the yoke of his relationship with Anna, in a particularly sneaky way, and taking off on an adventure that leads him to a hippie colony in Spain, where the paradisal laid-backness is only skin-deep. There he pursues a new and even more disconcerting relationship with the rainbow haired nymph, whose predilection for self-harm drives events into full-on tragedy. Out of this emotional conflagration, Jack emerges with a gratifyingly dented ego and the glimmerings of self-knowledge. butlinr01pic4.jpg

The plot is tightly sprung, the language sharp and poised and there is a highly visual filmic quality to the succession of images, from blizzard to blaze, from death by ice to death by fire.

In the mp3 audio interview below Ron Butlin tells about some of the ideas and experiences that shaped Belonging. butlinr01pic5.jpg

©Jennie Renton

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