Om Chapman's Odyssey
So here he was at last, where he had long feared to be. Harry Chapman is not well, and he doesn't like hospitals. Superficially all is as it normally is in such places, with nurses to chide him and a priest to console. But there are more than usual quotient of voices - is it because of Dr Pereira's wonder drug that he can hear the voice of his mother, acerbic and disappointed in him as ever? Perhaps her presence would be understandable enough, but what is Pip from Great Expectations doing here? More and more voices add their differing notes and stories to the chorus, squabbling, cajoling, commenting. Friends from childhood, lovers, characters from novels and poetry. His father, fighting in the First World War. Babar and Celeste, who dances with Fred Astaire. Jane Austen's Emma. His aunt Rose, 'a stranger to moodiness'. Christopher Smart's cat Jeoffrey. A man who wants to sell him T. S. Eliot's teeth. Virginia Woolf, the scourge of servants. And, of course, an old friend who turns up at his bedside principally to rehearse the litany of his own ailments. Slowly, endearingly, the life of Harry Chapman coalesces before our eyes, through voices real and unreal. Written with a gentle, effortless generosity, full of delicate observation, Chapman's Odyssey is the work of a master; a superbly rendered act of storytelling and ventriloquism that is waspish, witty, deeply moving and wise by turns and which constantly explores 'the unsolvable enigma of love'.