Review published on April 7, 2017.
A humane view of the UK’s many economic crises? Is there such a thing? And would it make a good novel? Well, yes, the brilliant author Ron Butlin (who’s only recently come to my attention) finds a compelling and realistic way of guiding some brilliant characters through from Thatcher’s selfish individualism to today’s global power and terror.
We begin with a diverse group of students holed up in a run-down Edinburgh tenement, focusing particularly on Hume, who happens to live in a cupboard and is a bit of a ladies man. He abandons his current love, Cat, for the slightly eccentric DD, who lives in a summer house, whilst St Francis, who has a compulsion to keep moving his furniture to overcome sexual and religious oppression, finds true love with homeless Megan.
When Cat suddenly leaves and Hume is forced to change his life dramatically, the forces of capitalism bring wealth and fame to this small group.
But the author has a fantastic way of not only moving lives forward in this plot, but making us aware of the huge emotional fallout from ignoring what is really important in individual lives when we only seek the God of money.
Being set in Edinburgh gives a great view of the world beyond the usual London-centric world of Canary Wharf that we might associate with this type of idea.
As the plot builds to a finale that seems not only unexpected but in some ways transforming to so many, the individual characters continued to engage me as a reader and I found the parallel mention of national and world events added to my overall enjoyment.
Ron Butlin is a modern day polymath who also writes poetry (he was the Scottish Poet Laureate), as well as a lyricist, previous male model and barnacle scraper on the Thames.
His gentle way with words, yet with story lines that pack a punch, has already led to many awards. This book might win more!
A worthy personal read and for book groups it will provoke lots of debate across the generations.
Philipa Coughlan 5/4
Billionaires’ Banquet by Ron Butlin
Salt Publishing 9781784631000 pbk Apr 2017
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