“If there was a sandwich on a table comprising life and death, John would most certainly lift up one half of the bread to see what was inside, no doubt expecting it to be off.”
A romance for all seasons
Reviewing A Change of Seasons, Dave Appleby notes: So many books nowadays are fantasy or scifi or thrillers that it is refreshing to read a novel that, like “Love on the Dole”, is grounded in the drama of everyday life.
In the first half of the book, recently divorced warehouseman John is awaiting, with dread and nightmares, a heart bypass operation. The book explores the stories of others in the ward: fellow patients and two of the nurses. We also learn about John’s early life.
Thoughts of heaven and hell
But if the story is a commonplace one, its treatment is not. Lyrical descriptions colour the narrative. The author is not afraid to tackle the less rational aspects of normality. The prologue is John’s dream of heaven which segues into a ‘memory’ of being punished by his headteacher at school by being hung in the stationery cupboard.
Furthermore, John has been haunted since childhood by a voice in his head called The Jester whose teasing goads – “Oh, you’ve found time to give yourself a sauna, Johnny. ’Cause you’re gonna be roasted alive tonight young man.” – are my favourite moments of the book.
The irrationality is ramped up in the second, post-op, half of the book. As the seasons change (it can be no coincidence that John’s surname is Winters), John experiences strange symptoms in his body and exhibits even stranger behaviours, culminating in a shocking act of violence.
Exploring various points of view
It is a very atmospheric book. There is good use of foreshadowing techniques. I thought perhaps the first half had too many characters to keep focused; the author is always ready to explore another person’s point of view. The rich use of an extensive vocabulary gives a suitably baroque texture and I enjoyed those occasions when the author added playful twists to clichés:
- “He walked towards his maker, or taker, helpless, with every step lasting a lifetime.“ (Prologue)
- “If there was a sandwich on a table comprising life and death, John would most certainly lift up one half of the bread to see what was inside, no doubt expecting it to be off.” (C 1)
- “That’s what they say when you’ve had a heart operation of this nature. You’ll feel a new man when you get out. Well, he certainly felt a new man, just not one he could not recognise.” (C 26)
- “The peripheral hum of local factories expelling pollution with productivity” (C 39)
This is a promising start by a new author. A Change of Seasons by Khurram Elahi is published by The Conrad Press, Canterbury.
This review also appears on Dave’s Book Blog.