Friday, August 26, 2011

Marie C.'s review: The Companion, by Lorcan Roche

The Companion, by Lorcan Roche. Published 2010 by Europa Editions. Paperback.

The ad is in The Voice.
Then, after a little while, a voice is in the ad.
Sounds exactly like the bloke who played the evil-baddie in North by Northwest, you know him yes you do, silver hair, real refined, shite, what's this his name is...?
Mason, James.
And this is what James Mason saying, softly: Trevor, you should endeavour to respond. ON the contrary, it will not be a waste of a subway token and will not involve your faith in humanity further being broken. My dear boy, this is for you. Believe me.

Thus begins The Companion, Irish writer Lorcan Roche's novel about an Irish man living in New York City who answers an ad to care for a slowly dying, disabled young man named Ed. Roche tells the story in Trevor's lively first-person Irish argot and tells it with elan. Trevor is troubled himself, with a difficult backstory we don't fully learn until just near the end. His parents kept secrets from him, and he himself didn't quite fit in with his brilliant sisters and their posh beaux. He works as a companion because taking care of the disabled is what he knows how to do, and he's good at it. He forges a good relationship with the often difficult and demanding Ed, and manages Ed's cold and selfish family as well. Other characters in this colorful novel include Dana, a brittle physical therapist, the family cook Ellie and Trevor's own running internal monologue.

The Companion is a very entertaining, very bittersweet book. Trevor becomes, over the course of the book, a very different person from the hard-as-nails, sarcastic man we meet at the beginning; Roche takes us all the way under his shell and shows us the vulnerable and damaged man inside. It's possible to draw some parallels between his psyche and the outward condition of the people for whom he cares- and he does care about his patients and clients, not just for them.

I enjoyed The Companion enough that I slowed down as I neared the end, unwilling to let the book go just yet. Roche's bubbly language rolls the reader along and shows more and more heart as the pages turn. I didn't expect it to end the way it did, and I didn't expect the tenderness that came out, either. It's edgy and raw and uncompromising, like so many Europa books, and a great read for the literary fiction reader looking for something a little different and off-the-beaten-path. At first I wasn't sure I was going to like the tight-hemmed Trevor, but I ended up loving him and I think you will, too.

This is book #3 of the Europa Challenge on my way to Haver Level.

It's on my blog, Boston Bibliophile, here.