Chris Sorensen is having problems with reality. He thinks he’s in line for promotion (he’s not). He thinks he’s God’s gift to women (they beg to differ). He thinks his staff laugh at his jokes because he’s basically a pretty funny guy. He thinks Southend United can win the Championship. He thinks he’s still twenty two. He thinks Everything is Going to be All Right.
And why not? He has a beautiful girlfriend (Virginia) whose only fault is a desire to tie him down (marriage, not bondage – she doesn’t do bondage unfortunately). He has two likeable potential parents in law, Hugh and Daphne. He has a flat conveniently located above the gym he never uses. He has a classic sports car with a leather covered gear stick and an almost complete set of wing mirrors.
Impending matrimony and the sports car’s leaking roof seem the only clouds on the horizon. The solution seems to be to get the sports car repaired but to trade in the girlfriend for a newer model that will be easier to run. Neither are especially urgent matters, particularly since there appears to be an excellent chance of two-timing Virginia by also going out with Lucy, his new assistant. As Chris points out to his best friend, Fat Dave, he can’t exactly help being a babe-magnet. In any case, making difficult decisions (or even easy decisions) really is not Chris’s style.
Events however force Chris to re-examine this state of affairs. A trip to the Lake District takes Chris back into his own past. Bit by bit we learn why Chris has become the person he is and, at the same time, we watch the world Chris has constructed for himself disintegrating around him. We also discover why Chris tells us early on: “some people lose their faith in God; I lost my faith in reality”.
Questions for reading groups
I often have to point out that Chris is not in any way based on me. Somebody recently said to me: “I wouldn’t want to be Chris and I wouldn’t want to be his friend”. Is Chris completely unsympathetic as a character?
I spent many years as a manger in various organisations and had the chance to observe plenty of good practice and plenty of bad. What do you think of Chris’s management skills?
The starting point of the novel, for me, was this: what would happen if you ceased to believe in reality? How would you regard the world and your fellow human beings? Do Chris’s actions make sense in this context? Could it be that Chris is right? (In which case, you don’t exist. Sorry about that.)
Chapters concerning Chris alternate with flashbacks to the seventeenth century and Descartes. Are these chapters interesting in their own right? How do they add to the twenty-first century narrative?
Most of the books I write are detective stories. Are there elements of a detective story in this book too?
Think, Simon Blackburn, OUP
On Descartes Garrett Thomson, Wadsworth Philosophers Series