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A Town by the Sea

By Victoria Hepburn

A Town by the Sea

Chris Paling, author who writes on his Brighton to London commute

'A Town by the Sea' follows the wanderings and ponderings of an amnesiac, who pieces together his past and looks in each situation for a clue to his place in life. The novel begins with a washed up body on an anonymous town by the sea. As if rising from birth (or rebirth) the figure must piece together from scratch how he got to be washed up and how he will continue his journey.

Seeing the world through the eyes of someone completely alienated from all human life, even his own, is a testing experience. This is part of the fresh challenge that Paling offers the reader, a chance to absorb the world in minute detail with no preconceptions or reality structures.

At times it becomes difficult to sympathise with the main character as he places every glance from a passing stranger under the microscope of complete self centred focus. The boundary breaking of social behaviour, including trespassing and randomly breaking into song as a way to endear himself to people, lends the narrative a cringing tension.

Sympathy returns as the character is beaten and buffeted around the town feeling lost and confused and in desperate search of comfort. The character's perceptions give a fantastic air of mythic grandeur to many of his encounters from the present and the past. The symbolic figure of the wise fool, haunts the novel with an ambiguous mix of the deathly and the hopeful.

This is novel is very rich with meaning and mystery and well worth a read. It shows what an adventure life would be if one followed the whims of the inner dialogue to the letter, merging the external and internal journey. It is clear that to write this novel, Paling immersed himself in reverie cleverly conveying his stream of consciousness and successfully blocking out the drudgery of his train commute.

This page was first added to The Deckchair website on 08/09/2006.

This page was amended on 10/06/2011
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