The Butt by Will Self – Book Review

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It’s rare that I love a book so much at the start, finding it hilarious and clever, and hate it so much by the end. I persevered as I so often do with books, solely in the hope that it may have a redeeming feature at the end. For me, this totally didn’t.

The story follows Tom, a tourist, possibly American (not clear) who is travelling in a fictional country which has a legal system heavily based in the tribal traditions of one of the native races of the country. In this country, smoking is not quite illegal, but there are severe restrictions. Tom is a smoker who has decided to quit, and is having his last cigarette on his hotel balcony. He flicks the butt; it is caught by the wind and lands on the head of an elderly man on the balcony below. One thing leads to another, the burn becomes infected and Tom is charged with attempted murder. He is separated from his family and needs to travel across the country to pay reparations to one of the local tribes, accompanied by a British fellow he suspects of being guilty of pedophilia.

Until they started this journey, I quite liked the book. It was weird and strange, but I didn’t mind that at all. And then the seemingly never-ending trip began. I found that the descriptions of the landscape and what was happening around them never conjured up clear images in my mind, so I never knew where they were. In addition to this, quite often I was taken from a scene just as the action seemed to be getting interesting only to be dropped somewhere else, sometime late with a brief summary. Things became more and more absurd and I got bored. Ptsch. That’s how I felt by the end.

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