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JB Morrison - A Godawful Small Affair

  by Fiona Hutchings

published: 10 / 4 / 2020

JB Morrison - A Godawful Small Affair


Following the success of his memoir last year, JB Morrison, the former frontman of Carter USM, is back with his fifth novel. Fiona Hutchings ponders whether 'Stranger Things coming to Brixton' is a good thing.

I think Dave Gorman sums it up best (and handily sticks it on the front of the book). "Musicians are meant to be dilletantes at best, but Jim keeps on being a proper writer." I felt some trepidation picking this book. Reading time is precious for me for one thing and you can't blame me (since this is the first of Morrison's books I've read) for being at least a little bit nervous about reading a novel by a musician. Yes, Morrissey, 'List of the Lost' is just one of the many entries on your charge sheet. JB Morrison has given me renewed hope. 'A Godawful Small Affair' is a fantastic, concise and moving story about a boy and his missing sister. The obvious links to Bowie were another potential cause for concern. Placing an icon seemingly front and centre of a novel generally goes one of two ways, but thankfully this time Bowie feels neither out of time or place in this story. His is not a starring role and neither should it be. Alien-obsessed Nathan is the star here and is engaging, sometimes unintentionally funny and occasionally heart breaking. His older sister has gone missing. Nathan knows she's been abducted by aliens again and also how to get her back. There are so many different strands and events happening around Nathan, and Morrison skilfully stays with him while giving us enough information to allow us to put more of the story together than Nathan can perhaps comprehend. The book also includes a companion piece,'Harvey King Unboxes His Family'. The press release suggest we "consider them a double A-side single of fiction." Again we meet characters sharply drawn in more than one dimension in situations immediately relatable. From the casual cruelty of internet trolls to the destructive secrets families keep from each other Morrison proves he knows how to draw you into a page turner while skilfully avoiding cliches and obvious breadcrumb trails. These are novels for readers of almost any persuasion, music, fiction, thriller or, in its way, social commentary. And if it means you are still humming 'Life On Mars' to yourself a couple of weeks later there is definitely worse things your could be doing with your mouth...

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