Alison Kennedy is an immensely talented novelist who has described a long day in the lives of two very challenged people in a way that is both serious and sweet: Serious Sweet [New York: Little A, 2016] is the latest demonstration of her literary skills.
Like two other novels I know called Paradise,* this one by A L Kennedy [London: Vintage 2005] uses its title ironically. The life described is no Paradise on earth nor even any purifying purgatory. In the end, there is no way back. On the way to perdition there is love, humour, coruscating wit but these are all counterpoint to misery, failure and degradation. Curiously, the book that came to mind while reading Paradise was the Martin Amis novel Money. The common thread is not so much the booze but the quality of the language. Amis’s protagonist John Self can think as well as Martin Amis can write. In Paradise, the narrator Hannah Luckraft uses language as her medium even more than she does alcohol. Her similes are scintillating simulacra and her metaphors modify the metanarrative and make it an even better one. And you need that in order to make a sad, sad story bearable and meaningful.
With reading Day by A L Kennedy [London: Vintage, 2008] comes my dawning realisation that I have been missing something. As my hero Richard Ford says of her, “This woman is a profound writer.” And yet, despite being aware of her, and now and again catching her sparky contributions to radio programmes, to my chagrin, this is the first novel of hers I have read. Mea maxima culpa. My bittersweet punishment will be to try and catch up in the months and years ahead; and tomorrow is another day!