Erwin Mortier - review (3 stars)

Shutterspeed (Harvill Secker)

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Erwin Mortier

The latest novel from award-winning Flemish author Erwin Mortier is a typically lyrical exploration of the wonders and perplexities of childhood. Poised on the verge of adolescence, Joris reports on the inconsistencies and strange peccadilloes of the adult world with calm bemusement. Having lived since early childhood with his aunt and uncle, Joris’ occasional attempts to reconstruct his parents’ lives from photos prove frustratingly patchy. But when he accidentally views a piece of film of his dead father, the boy’s quiet existence is thrown into turmoil.

Mortier’s novel proceeds gently, the author taking his time setting the scene in preparation for the final act’s revelations. While a certain amount of patience is required to surmount the episodic nature of the narrative, the conceit of recreating the past through photographs and film is a compelling one, while the quiet, sustained narrative voice coupled to Mortier’s elegant prose bring the world of the novel to vivid life. (Allan Radcliffe)

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