Wednesday, 19 May 2010
Timoleon Vieta Come Home by Dan Rhodes
Since that really wasn’t helpful I’ll start again! Timoleon Vieta is the dog of Cockcroft, an elderly British man, who currently lives in Italy. Cockcroft seems to get through dogs and lovers (male) at an alarming rate of knots, the lovers disappearing and the dogs either dying or disappearing, usually both. Timoleon Vieta loves Cockcroft, and in his way he loves him, although, he is cajoled into doing the unthinkable when he falls for a Bosnian that turns up on his doorstep, responding to a brief invitation from Cockcroft at some foreign party.
The Bosnian, as he introduces himself, is obviously looking to hide somewhere, and chooses the unpleasantness of paying his rent by sexual favours as an easy way to hide out in the Italian Countryside. Cockcroft immediately falls in lust with this man, but more than anything, he appreciates having company. Most of the first part of the book is concerned with Cockcroft reminiscing about various lovers that have graced his life, all be it only for a short period of time. And the Bosnian just wants to be bored somewhere quiet. All in all, it seems like a perfect arrangement, except for two things. One is that both men are gradually revealed to be not quite what they seem, and the second is Timoleon Vieta. The Bosnian can’t stand him, and eventually persuades Cockcroft to abandon him in Rome, which he duly does.
This is the end of the first part of the book, and although we learn a bit about what the to men are pretending to each other to be, we don’t get their true stories until they are gradually revealed in little bits throughout the second half of the book. After his abandonment, Timoleon Vieta attempts to make his way home, coming into contact with various people along the way. Each chapter is like a snapshot of a person’s life, usually a love story of some sort, and all depressing! The ending is no less depressing although Timoleon Vieta does eventually make it home, and in fact it seems as if Cockcroft has finally found some happiness although based on his track record, it is unclear how long this will last.
This book is definitely showing the darker and gloomy side of life. As the stories of Cockcroft are revealed they definitely show the underside of society, and these two men become more and more dislikeable as the story progresses. They are never particularly likeable in he first place however, but my impression of them just degenerated the novel progressed.
I enjoyed this book immensely, but it is quite hard to say why. A much as I enjoyed the stories of Cockcroft and The ‘Bosnian’, particularly the unravelling of their stories as the book progresses, I think the melancholy and slightly surreal stories of the relationships in the second half were my favourite. This was when I felt the book really came alive for me. He author seemed to be able to draw me into these stories, and they could almost have been books in themselves. They definitely packed a punch, and they all seemed to end on a pretty shocking bombshell. But as to whether I liked the novel, or the author’s obvious skill with short stories, I’m still not sure. Worth reading though, especially the second half