This Party’s Got to Stop by Rupert Thomson

Anyone who’s lost a parent or grandparent knows about the inevitable breaking up and selling off of their belongings. It was depicted particularly poignantly in that slow and realistic Juliette Binoche film Summer Hours. In This Party’s Got to Stop, Rupert Thomas and his two oddball brothers go back to live together briefly in their childhood house after their father dies. None of them have known he was sick – and Thomas spends a long time agonising over whether he hadn’t wanted to trouble them or if he’d actually wanted to die alone. They are tasked with the job of selling and emptying the house – not an easy thing for anyone to do, but it’s particularly painful for Rupert, who lost his mother at a young age. The house is all that remains of her legacy.
This is a memoir full of childhood reminisces, but it’s the really strange characters of Rupert and his extended family that grab your attention. It’s often very funny too. Youngest brother Ralph and his wife Vivian are strangers to the elder two, Rupert and Robin – they lock themselves in their room with their baby daughter and are suspicious beyond reason. Rupert and Robin themselves bounce between dank London flats where their housemates are alternatively way too chilled out, or are telling them to jump out of windows when they’re off their heads on speed. There’s an irascible old uncle who becomes a Muslim, and is much lauded by the other men in his hostel. There’s an old aunt who hordes rubbish against times of poverty, and speaks very openly about sex.
Here are all these characters who could so easily become charicatures, but whom Rupert writes with such insight that they quickly become real. It’s as Boyd Tonkin says of his writing , “His books remain a kind of open secret, an unlocked garden.”


~ by ConsanguineousMind on June 21, 2010.

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