As a boy Phil Benson tried to summon up an enthusiasm for baseball. He could see that his real passion, classical music, was considered somehow subversive - not really American. That is why Mr Tackett's became such a haven for him. Away from the uninspiring pitch and the disapproving ear of his father at home, Phil found at his piano teacher's a sanctuary for his musical cAs a boy Phil Benson tried to summon up an enthusiasm for baseball. He could see that his real passion, classical music, was considered somehow subversive - not really American. That is why Mr Tackett's became such a haven for him. Away from the uninspiring pitch and the disapproving ear of his father at home, Phil found at his piano teacher's a sanctuary for his musical conspiracy with the universe to flourish. Katie Doheney was the victim of another sort of conspiracy - or so she was convinced from the first brush of her childhood logic with the real-life spectacle of death in a road accident and the image of the Hiroshima mushroom on television. The threat of nuclear holocaust stalked Katie's every moment. Meanwhile Katie stalked Phil Benson. By the time Phil was ready to go East and make everyone proud of him, no ordinary bond had grown up between Katie and himself. They understood each other's obsessions. Phil's keyboard was Katie's bomb shelter and from Cuban missile crisis to the raid on Tripoli the curious duet played on. Leigh Kennedy's disarming and irresistible novel follows Katie into unlikely matrimony and Phil into the arms of a gun-toting St Louis actress. But that's the least you would expect from two people who alone, as far as we know, have already been through World War Three....
|Number of Pages||:||296 Pages|
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Saint Hiroshima Reviews
Some novels spend a very long time on my shelves before suddenly the moment is exactly right for me to read them: they're novels I know are going to offer me a marvelous experience, and I don't want to run the risk of missing out on a single scintilla of that experience through launching myself upon the voyage when the tides aren't quite right, or something. Choose your own cliche: you know what I mean. So for years the books sit there, and on occasion I gaze at them with a loving eye -- sometimes I even pull them down off the shelf and fondle them before putting them back again -- until finally, one day . . . I bought Saint Hiroshima in the late 1980s, quite probably (shamefaced confession) as a remainder; I see that Leigh kindly signed it to me in '97, but the book was a longstanding possession by then. The other day, soon after I'd finished reading Brian Hall's The Saskiad and was wondering what next to read, I caught sight of the green spine and the old Bloomsbury logo out of the corner of my eye and, bang!, the book was in my hand. After waiting two decades, I read it in a day. That last sentence tells you quite a lot about how good a book Saint Hiroshima is. It gains its title from an opening sequence, a childhood experience of small-town Katie Doheney: the same day that she's the close-up witness of a horrific traffic accident she hears (yes, hears, because the installer's having difficulty getting the picture to stabilize) a tv programme about the Hiroshima bombing, and the two events become conflated in her mind. Thereafter she has a phobia about The Bomb; the woman who died in the traffic accident, and whose smashed-up body came crashing down right in front of Katie's aghast eyes, becomes a personal archetype, Saint Hiroshima. The other main protagonist is Phil Benson, a phenomenally talented musician. The two of them are pulled together as if by a force of nature during their adolescence and become teen sweethearts; for the rest of the book they succeed, through happenstance, through lack of self-faith and/or ambition, through folly and through a sort of reverse serendipity, in drifting inexorably further and further apart -- this even when a horrifically cruel trick played on them crams them together for a couple of weeks in a cramped bomb shelter, believing the nuclear holocaust has come. For a long time, though not lovers, they remain each the most important person in the other's life, but by the novel's close I was reminded of that merciless Leonard Cohen throwaway line at the end of his account of a doomed love affair: "I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel. That's all. I don't even think of you that often." Katie and Phil have become, as it were, "oh, just someone I used to know". The book has a lot more plot than I'm indicating above; but really it's a novel that's almost less concerned with plot than it is about tale-telling -- and the tale-telling is an absolute joy. Saint Hiroshima was well worth the wait.