Reviewed by E. B. Heath
Bobby Palmer’s debut novel, Isaac and the egg, deserves to be approached with a fresh mind in order that the storyline unravels as the author intended. Therefore, this review will not contain plot details, only say the themes are of love, loss, grief and recovery. It can also be said that it is not a sugary Pollyanna version of grief. It takes the reader into a mind reeling in pain. So, it will surprise readers to know that it is also funny, in fact, most amusing. Palmer skilfully takes the darkest reality we must endure and infuses it with beams of magical realism, in doing so he guides his protagonist, and his readers, from despair back towards hope and courage. Isaac and the egg is a most engaging read.
Budding writers are told to start a story with a powerful hook sentence or paragraph in order to grab readers’ attention and curiosity, thereby providing incentive to continue the novel. Palmer certainly follows this precept. And never really stops. A hook that keeps hooking. Page after page the novel is constructed by material inducing so much curiosity that it is hard to quit. However, the rapid pace does not hinder Palmer’s prose, which is a joy to read:
If grief does come in waves, then the tsunami of a few weeks ago has given way to a choppy battering of constant, relentless, low-level misery.
In the reflection of the screen, Isaac catches a glimpse of himself. An unruly tower of hair escapes upwards from his head, while an unsightly beard anchors him back down. The whiskers creep up his cheeks and down his neck like ivy on the exterior of a derelict old house.
The novel is dotted throughout by intertextual references, particularly of films, giving readers an instant visual of the scene in question. Emphasis is illustrated by a huge font size, often used in young adult novels, however, in this context it jarred somewhat. Perhaps used with the intention of arresting attention, although I cannot imagine readers being anything but totally focussed on each and every scene as they follow events in Isaac Addy’s life.
First sentence: Isaac Addy stands on a bridge, unsure whether to jump or not. Then he hears a scream like no other he has heard before it. Despite his all-consuming sadness he must investigate. From this point readers are taken into the undercurrents of Isaac’s life. Whereas other characters appear in the mist of his grief they are seen as such, shadowy figures from a previous reality. Isaac now is immersed in an other-worldly experience, as are the readers.
I cannot emphasis enough how this is not a depressing read. It is funny and sad and truthful. It could be seen as an exploration of the complexity of human minds; brains that have the capacity to protect us. It could be viewed as a fanciful magical realism romp that when parred down reveals a collective human experience, giving hope that there is a recovery point.
Isaac and the egg is a most enjoyable novel. Bobby Palmer has wrapped a universal theme into a most original novel.
by Bobby Palmer
Headline Publishing Group
ISBN:978 1 4722 9863 8