Friday, 7 May 2010

Chancers: Gillian Philip

I haven’t actually flipped a coin since I finished reading Nicola Morgan’s haunting new book WASTED. I haven’t had one on me at a particular moment, or I’ve been driving, say. But (and especially when I’m driving, as it happens) I have spent a lot of time thinking about the workings of chance and luck and fate. It’s WASTED that’s done it to me. It’s that sort of book.

Everybody has stories of what might-have-been, and there are some downright chilling ones at Nicola’s blog for the book, http://talkaboutwasted.blogspot.com/. (Have a look at the post for 4th May, Claire Marriot’s story of the lock that jammed on 7th July 2005, and say you don’t have shivers in your spine).

(On a less sinister note, I was remembering - because of election day - that had I not decided at the last minute to go to a party in 1987, where I met and fancied an SDP supporter, I wouldn't have gone to work for them at election time and I wouldn't have met my husband. And so the examples go on.)

WASTED examines concepts as diverse (or maybe as close; don’t ask me, it makes my head spin) as quantum physics and the myth of Oedipus. It’s the story of Jack and Jess, and Jack’s Game – the coin he flips to sacrifice to luck before he makes any decision. Jack has had two mothers, both of whom have died, and he can’t believe he hasn’t used up all his ill luck – so he trusts to the coin to make his decisions now, accepting its verdict whether it looks good for him or not. There’s a scary passage when Jack plays his game with street corners in the middle of the night, and ends up in a very dodgy neck of the woods, and so loses his ‘lucky’ coin. Contrarily, Jack doesn’t treat this as a message from fate, but finds a new coin... and so the complex game of luck and chance continues, with drastic results for both himself and Jess.

It took me longer than I expected to read WASTED, because I kept having to double back and re-examine an incident, a decision, a concept. It’s that kind of book – it makes you think, and it makes you shiver. Sometimes fate diverges into two chapters; the eerily omniscient voice of the narrator gives us the variables, and a tiny butterfly-flutter of chance is shown to lead to wildly different hurricane-sized outcomes.

It’s haunting because it makes you wonder, even as you make tiny decisions of speed or direction on the school run, just what parallel universes are splitting away from you at each second, and what’s happening there. I’m really quite glad I never seem to have a coin to hand, because Jack’s Game might be a little too tempting, and then what does one do? Defy the coin?

But if you read WASTED – and you really, really should – you have to play Jack’s Game at least once, because it’s how each reader must choose the story’s outcome, and it isn’t quite as simple as life and death. Honestly, WASTED is a corker. Try it.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wasted-Nicola-Morgan/dp/1406321958/ref=cm_cr_pr_pb_t

www.gillianphilip.com

8 comments:

Gillian Philip said...

Oops, links are broken! Cut & paste to browser & it should work, no worries.

Nicola Morgan said...

Thanks, Gillian, very very much. Glad it got under your skin! Actually, weirdly, I'm thinking about these things much more now that the book is out there. I find that the more I think about what ifs, the more I notice the random-like world around me.

kathryn evans said...

Am just writing my blog aboutvery similar thing! An astonishing book....

Talli Roland said...

Nicola handed me my prize of 'Wasted' yesterday and it's on my weekend agenda to start reading it! I can't wait. Great review!

RennaSc said...

很棒的分享~如有打擾之處,敬請原諒!........................................

Nicky S (Absolute Vanilla) said...

I'm reading it at the moment and I find it's causing me to ask myself all sorts of questions - all of the sort I find totally fascinating. And I'm really looking forward to interviewing Nicola when I'm done. So I'll say goodbye, as I've a fascinating book to finish!

Lucy Coats said...

Nicola is coming on Scribble City Central on Tuesday 11th May, so if you want to hear her thoughts on Oedipus and all that, do drop in. Fascinating stuff. I absolutely agree that Wasted has made me think more about chance and the small (sometimes very small) decisions which change the direction of our lives. It's a fab book and a definite Top Read.

Lucy at http://scribblecitycentral.blogspot.com

Nicola Morgan said...

Lucy - v much looking forward to it (esp since I've forgotten what i said!).

Talli - it was really lovely to meet you and you blogged about that so wonderfully.

Nicky - am also looking forward to seeing what questions you come up with. V glad you liked Wasted - phew!

Kathryn - thank you so much - am off to visit you now!