My reasons behind reading this one were purely course-motivated. I was writing a piece set in the Welsh sea-side town of Aberystwyth and thought that Malcolm Pryce’s book, set in the same locale, would provide some much needed inspiration. I was wrong for two reasons.
The first being that Malcolm Pryce must have been on some kind of high-powered hallucinogen when he came up with the most absurd story I’ve ever read. The characters are so ridiculous that it’s hard to relate to the setting at all. We’ve got a crazed teacher-cum-gangster called Lovespoon and Dai Brainbocs, the aptly named boy-genius. The plot is so twisted and bizarre that the setting could be planet Mars and it wouldn’t make that much of a difference.
The second reason, and I think the most important, is that Malcolm Pryce wasn’t even living in Aberystwyth when he wrote Aberystwyth Mon Amour. I’m not the kind of writer that focuses too much on research, but having lived in Aberystwyth for a year and read this book, I can honestly say a little field trip wouldn’t have done any harm.
It’s hard to focus on the writing when the plot is so whacked out. It’s one of those books that uses the, ‘oh my God, what could possibly happen next?’ approach to keep the reader going. But it goes too far. The only reason I got to the end is because it’s only 245 pages long (and because I refuse to stop reading books once I’ve invested any amount of time in them. Let’s call it OCD).
Like any book, no matter how bad they are, there are always good points and that falls to the main character, Louie Knight, Aberystwyth’s only private detective. He seems quietly aware of the fact the world around him is fiction and it makes it believable because he attitude and dialogue seem to hint that he doesn’t care that he is a private detective in arguably one of the only places in the UK where they aren’t needed or wanted.
Also, Mr Pryce is a very good writer. His prose is clean and I believe if he kept his imagination under a little more control Aberystywyth Mon Amour could have been a corker. And I haven’t even mentioned Myfanwy, the local dancer who does... something naughty with Brainbocs or Sospan, the ‘philosopher-cum-ice-cream seller.’ I can’t make this shit up. Thankfully, or otherwise, Malcolm Pryce can.
Recommendations go to anyone who is a fan of crazy. And, based on 23 year’s experience, that’s a large proportion of the British public. On reflection, I guess Malcolm Pryce does know his audience.
Aberystwyth Mon Amour by Malcolm Pryce was published by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc in 2001. RRP £7.99 (Paperback)