First Novel

Nicholas Royle

First Novel

Either "First Novel" is a darkly funny examination of the relative attractions of creative writing courses and suburban dogging sites, or it's a twisted campus novel and possible murder mystery that's not afraid to blend fact with fiction in its exploration of the nature of identity. Paul Kinder, a novelist with one forgotten book to his name, teaches creative writing in a university in the north-west of England. Either he's researching his second, breakthrough novel, or he's killing time having sex in cars. 4.0 out of 5 based on 8 reviews
First Novel

Omniscore:

Classification Fiction
Genre General Fiction
Format Hardcover
Pages 304
RRP
Date of Publication January 2013
ISBN 978-0224096980
Publisher Jonathan Cape
 

Either "First Novel" is a darkly funny examination of the relative attractions of creative writing courses and suburban dogging sites, or it's a twisted campus novel and possible murder mystery that's not afraid to blend fact with fiction in its exploration of the nature of identity. Paul Kinder, a novelist with one forgotten book to his name, teaches creative writing in a university in the north-west of England. Either he's researching his second, breakthrough novel, or he's killing time having sex in cars.

Reviews

The Daily Telegraph

Philip Womack

What is really so good about First Novel is that it plays with its readers, challenging, provoking us; we’re never sure where our sympathies ought to lie, for example. (Why should we have to like people in novels?) This is a finely honed work of sophisticated gaming that flirts with truth; yet it never forgets that it’s also a plot-driven fiction.

17/01/2013

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The Times

John Burnside

Is this a book about a man losing himself “very quietly in the world”, as the epigraph from Kierkegaard suggests? Is it the story of murder and revenge or is it just a game? We do not know, because First Novel is metafiction — and it is an extremely good example of the form.

29/12/2012

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The Literary Review

Jonathan Beckman

Most satisfying is the novel written by a disconcertingly intense student of Paul, extracts of which intermittently appear. It follows the life of Ray, who signs up for the RAF and is sent to Zanzibar after his wife dies in pregnancy, before he experiences sexual awakening in Fifties London and moderate success as a gay poet. It movingly explores Ray's tragic inarticulacy and residual shame towards his conservative parents and heterosexual son. Quite brilliantly the story is told with the naif directness of an apprentice-work, while still exuding enough authority and control to justify its place within Royle's novel.

01/03/2013

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The Guardian

Gerard Woodward

The novel ... takes some extremely dark and disturbing turns. Both infanticide and geronticide are involved (Dr Harold Shipman makes an appearance), but one of the pleasures of the book is how deftly Royle accounts for this darkness, while managing to weave everything together. Patience with the plot is duly rewarded – the Ray narrative doesn't begin to make sense until we follow the story of Ray's son, and then later his grandson by adoption, and the inevitable overlap between reality and fiction occurs when the student's novel begins to strongly resemble Paul's own life.

04/01/2013

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The Daily Mail

Stephanie Cross

This may be a tricksily metafictional novel but Royle hasn’t forgotten his readers and as his queasy and, yes, macabre story progresses, the desire to know how the dots join up becomes increasingly urgent.

03/01/2013

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The Observer

Lucy Scholes

Royle is not simply piecing a jigsaw together – his narratives slowly bleed together, offering illumination or muddying the waters. It's an intricate story with an unsettlingly noirish effect.

19/01/2013

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The Daily Telegraph

Anthony Cummins

Somewhere in a publicist’s trash folder – maybe – a draft blurb likens this vertiginous murder mystery to the lost novel that JG Ballard, David Lodge and Alain Robbe-Grillet wrote together after a night in a lay-by spying through misted-up windshields.

16/01/2013

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The Sunday Times

Trevor Lewis

Royle’s slow-burning novel expertly draws us into the unpredictable labyrinth of the protagonist’s mind, and is seldom less than grimly compelling. It also puts an intriguing slant on the trusty film noir trope of the flawed and fatalistic hero whose past is inexorably catching up with him even as his future recedes, but there is arguably too much authorial sleight of hand and too many self-conscious distancing devices at work here for the reader to gain any emotional purchase on the main character.

06/01/2013

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