Bibliofemme Bookclub An Irish Bookclub

January 10, 2012

Timoleon Vieta Come Home by Dan Rhodes

Filed under: Bookclub Books,General Fiction — The Artist @ 3:07 pm
Timoleon Vieta Come Home Book Cover Timoleon Vieta Come Home
Dan Rhodes
Harvest Books

Meeting: Monday 26th April 2004

The protagonists of this tale are billed as an aged homosexual composer, his dog and a “mysterious Bosnian”.

Cockroft, a retired composer and socialite, moves in Umbria, rural Italy following ostracism in his native England. Surviving on royalties he lives lonely and secluded life filled with flings, affairs and his dogs. Tomoleon Vieta a scruffy mongrel with beautiful eyes being his current canine beau.

Yet Cockroft is not a man to be pitied, he is shallow and self-absorbed. He has children whose existence he would rather forget and goes on to abandon his best friend at the whiff of someone new.

This new arrival is “The Bosnian”; he turns up at Crockroft’s home one day having met him at some function or other. If installs himself – doing odd jobs and giving blowjobs (at 7oc every Wednesday). The later a payment only jokingly requested but none-the-less accepted.

The Bosnian hates Timoleon Vieta and serves and ultimatum- him or the dog. Cockroft gets drunk and allows the Bosnian to dump Timoleon at the coliseum – in fact he accompanies him and reasons that the dog with have a great adventure that he was probably holding him back!

This novel is described as a love story between a man and his faithful canine companion, yet who would abandon their best friend for the possibility of extra time with a thoroughly dislikable character who showed obvious distain for you? In actuality this book did very little to explore relationships between man and dog. Rather the dog and its abandonment acted as device to hook in (loosely) a series of vignettes (- a girl who leaves her native Wales for Rome to reunite with the object her summer romance, a young couples “fated” romance, an academic who finds love and a stepdaughter in china..)

The vignettes in themselves have the simplicity of folk stories. However their prettiness is without real depth and they feel merely slotted in to pad out what is really a meager short story. Supposedly woven into the epic journey of Timoleon, the dog’s expedition was merely grazed past – we knew he was fed every now and again and had sore paws but little else. The “weaving” of stories itself could only be described a clunky and school essay-ish at best.

Subtitled “a sentimental journey” the stories repeatedly set up scenarios of sentimentality only to kick you in the shins – a rather stagy tactic when used repetitively. I don’t believe that everything has to end happily ever after, yet some of the punches in this book seemed purely gratuitous.

The writing itself was, well, somewhat mediocre with flashes of interest (the passage relating to ex-pats travel writing was indeed very funny). The characters where shallow in both conception and rendering, although I did believe in their existence – the cowardly upper middle class bully and the aging homosexual separated from family and social circle of his youth.

In truth Timolean, Cockroft and the Bosnian should have been enough to sustain 305 pages of large type. Leaving the construction of the book owing less to modernism and more to an inability to take the leap from short story to novel.

Immediately after reading this book I thought; ” I like it, simple style, is very much a bridging book between short stories and full blown novel but it’ll be interesting to see what he does next” but since then my disappointment has grown.

Although I am giving the book 3 stars one of them is actually for the illustrations by Vietnamese artist Vien Thuc (achingly poignant), which makes this really a 2 star work.

If there is something to be learnt from this book it is of disposability; friends, careers, ways of life … and even books can be dumped. The Artist 3/5

Score awarded by Bibliofemme: 2.3 out of 5

What the other femmes had to say

The Writer “A flimsy idea for a book that stretches as far as Rhodes takes it, but only just. I cannot forgive him the ending.” 2/5

The Techie “Elements of this book are truly great, my feeling is that this would be much better as a short story compilation than a novel.” 3/5

The DJ “Take out the ‘one man and his dog’ element and this could be a good short story collection” 2/5

The Historian “From Rhodes’ attempt to shoehorn a collection of short stories into a novel, the annoying dog and manipulative ending, I disliked this book intensely. Not worth wasting time with.” 1/5

The Gardener “Short stories woven loosely together with a wandering canine, Recommended? On the fence.” 3/5

The Connoisseur “Enjoyable individual vignettes but unfortunately they did not string together into a cohesive whole.” 2/5

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