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Friday, 9 July 2010

The Dance of the Pheasodile, by Tim Roux.

Sometimes a book is so unusual it defies categorisation. The Dance of the Pheasodile, ISBN 9781436357647, is such a novel. Tim Roux has merged the reality of life in parts of England, with a fantasy that allows the writer to explore deep human conflicts in revealing ways. Hull is not a glamorous city and this refreshingly raw depiction of how environment can impact on moral, social and personal values is a great antidote to the modern obsession with the superficial. Here we have real people, people with flaws as well as courage, struggling in real lives to make sense of a world that seems determined to beat them down.

The plot of this novel twists and turns surprisingly so that the reader is jolted out of complacent assurance that he knows where the action will take him next. The premise, depending on how open minded you are, requires a small leap of faith but is handled so adroitly that even the most sceptical will find it hard to put the book down when the unexpected happens to the hero; if, indeed, the male lead can be so designated. Set in areas that contrast the north-south divide still flourishing in England, the novel gives insight into the lives of the comfortable middle class of the south set against the disadvantaged and ill-educated of the modern northern slum.

Keith is at once a moral and immoral character, giving life to the hypothesis that all of us, faced with difficult moral choices, will follow our true natures to resolve issues we never expected to face. His struggles, both physical and ethical, are dictated by his extraordinary background as much as by his solid relationship with his wife in the present. The anti-hero, Harry, known by all as ‘arry, could so easily have been a one dimensional villain but Tim Roux rounds him out to give reasons for his appalling behaviour whilst resisting the temptation to make excuses for him.

Some will read this book as a crime novel, and it can easily be seen in that light. But, as with all good novels, the story is capable of appreciation on more than one level. Although much of the language is literary in style, it is not obtuse or off-putting to the casual reader. As is generally the case with any good novel, this one has a number of themes running through it. For me, the most important is that, ‘faced with danger to loved-ones, the modern family man will take any action necessary to protect them, even if it is contrary to his most strongly held beliefs’. Others may find any of the other themes paramount, of course.

The dialogue is quite instructive and used to enhance the differences between the two ‘classes’ of characters depicted. Some may find the missing ‘h’ and other sloppy speech a little overdone and others may find the ‘correctness’ of a few characters a little stilted, but I suspect the extremes were employed to point out how communication can reflect the inner discipline, or its lack, of the individual. Certainly, this aspect of the writing is insufficient to prevent enjoyment of the novel, though ‘enjoyment’ might be a misplaced term here. The book is certainly entertaining but its depiction of gangland brutality, criminal deception, official expediency and individual duplicity lends the book a bleak and sometimes harrowing air. There are moments of light and laughter, however, and the general message is uplifting, with a satisfying conclusion that nevertheless manages to continue the running thread of questions to be answered by the reader.

Fascinated by the Pheasodile of title, I Googled, searched my many reference books, and found no answer. Curiosity led me to ask the author. It came as no surprise that the Pheasodile is a chimera formed in a dream; a construct of a seductively persuasive pheasant which, denied success, transforms into a sort of crocodile, getting its way by more brutal action.

I read this book over a couple of days and found the narrative intriguing, making me eager to discover the outcome. I empathised with the main character more than I expected and felt some pity for all but the most irredeemable characters. I happily recommend this book to all readers who enjoy a novel worthy of the name.


Word of the Day: haiku – a verse form, from Japan, using three lines and up to seventeen syllables.  
‘Poetry is
 Whatever a poet
 Can make you believe it is.’



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