On his twenty-fifth birthday Malcolm Ede decides to get into bed…and never again get out. Twenty five years later and true to his promise Malcolm still lies incumbent in that very same bed, now one of the worlds largest men. But the ultimate question even his brother can’t figure out is this:
Is Malcolm an original and inspiring rebel with a message for the world? Or is he simply a very lazy and selfish man who couldn’t face life so gave up?
The story is told through the eyes of Malcolm’s brother, who incidentally we never learn the name of. In a coming of age narrative his brother reflects back on his younger years growing up in the shadow of the more than eccentric and outlandish Malcolm. How would anyone ever remember his name when Malcolm spent most of his juvenile years refusing to wear clothes and instead favoured nudity even in an airport terminal?
When Malcolm gets his first girlfriend, a girl his younger brother has lusted after from a far, a tense and complicated relationship develops. Malcolm is his protector and defender, his friend as well as his older brother, he is the vivacious centre of his families world, the magnet bringing them together. And yet he has torn them apart. Absorbing all of his mothers attention Malcolm is a fixed wedge in his parents marriage. A perpetual barrier between his brother and their mother.
Malcolm may be the life source of the Ede family, but he is also an undoubtedly selfish strain upon it too.
The novel wears on switching back and forth between past and present, tying the links between a younger Malcolm and the man he turned into. A moment of intensity occurs when we grow closer to the heart of his monumental decision and the moment Malcolm declared his self-imposed exile. The novel takes on a new intensity as we try to decide the morality and sanity of his decision.
On the one hand there is something inspiring about a person who rejects the ‘ings’ of life. Working, washing, sleeping and dreaming. And yet there is
selfish in it too. His over protective mother seems to lose her last touch with reality and her family become all encompassed in Malcolm’s every move. Or lack there of. His father becomes more detached and his brother? Well he seems suspended in time. Unable to take a step backwards or forwards, frozen by Malcolm’s choice. His life always seems to have being dictated by Malcolm and now his inertia has left him unable to move on.
I wont spoil the ending but as the novel wore on a question developed in my mind. If it was Malcolm’s life that had destroyed this family, then would his death save it?
Book Group’s Thoughts…
Well if there was ever a book that divides opinions this is one. Whilst myself and Holly loved this book Tara was left less sure and actually felt disappointed by the book. Others seemed to fit somewhere in the middle. Not exactly bowled over by Whitehouse’s style they didn’t hate the book either.
Whilst I was a little disappointed that others clearly didn’t love the book as much as me I was left amused by how such a small group could have such diverse and differing opinions. It goes to show some books are or for some people and some just aren’t. And there really is a book for everyone.
Whilst I began to understand Malcolm’s choice and even admired his refusal to confirm, I did feel that his intentions didn’t have quite the impact he’d clearly tried to achieve.
Other book grouper’s couldn’t see any sense in his actions and found his frustratingly selfish with no plausible motif.
Some even felt the writing style was too simple.
For me the book worked, it flowed easily and engaged from the beginning. The story is unique and refreshing and I admired the way Whitehouse pushed the boundaries and took things to the extreme.
Maybe you’ll love it or maybe you’ll loath it. My advice, give it ago.