Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Book of Revelation by Rupert Thomson

The Book of Revelation: A Novel  What a strange little book, this Book of Revelation. It centers around a 29-year-old British male dancer who lives and works in Amsterdam. He and his girlfriend Brigitte, who is also a dancer, live together and work for the same dance company. He's happy. As he steps out to buy cigarettes for his girlfriend - he tells her cigarettes will give her cancer but she doesn't care - he reflects on how perfect his life is at that moment. He knows his career as a dancer is nearing its end, but he has a burgeoning career as a choreographer and he has Brigitte.

On his way to purchase the cigarettes, the man is approached by three women.  They begin to praise his dancing. He is gracious. Then he feels something prick his arm and the world goes black. The man wakes up chained in a room. Over the course of the next eighteen days the women force him to have sex with them and to engage in various humiliating situations. They tell him that he is theirs. They mutilate him. Once the women are finished with him, they release him. The man is left confused, embarrassed, ashamed, and humiliated. He returns home. He tells his girlfriend what happened and she doesn't believe him. Let me just pause here and say this made no sense to me. Not only has the man never cheated on his girlfriend before, he disappeared from everything and everyone - family, friends, and job - for eighteen days, and she thinks it's all about her? His parents had the good sense to wonder where their son was but because Brigitte insists that her boyfriend simply ran off with another woman, the police never bother looking for him.

Anyway, after being kidnapped, raped, and then dumped by his girlfriend, the man is adrift. He never really tells anyone (except Brigitte) what happened to him. He doesn't go to the police or the hospital. He wanders about, literally and figuratively. He does have friends. One in particular, Isabel senses that something happened to the man but she doesn't know what. She tries to help as best she can. At some point the man becomes obsessed with the finding the women who abused him. Unfortunately he doesn't know anything about them or even exactly what they looked liked - throughout his ordeal either he was hooded or they were.

I am not sure what to think of this book. With such a provocative plot I would expect that the author is trying to say something but I have no idea what that is. I was reading reviews of this book on the web and saw at least one that suggested that at least up until the mutilation scene, the idea of a man getting kidnapped by three women who want to have sex with him is a typical male fantasy but I don't think that is what The Book of Revelation is about. At no point is the man happy with being kidnapped. He doesn't appear to enjoy the sex. Before the kidnapping and during the ordeal a large part of what gets him through it all is thinking about Brigitte with whom he is so in love. Nor does this book appear to be about society's treatment of male victims of sexual abuse because aside from Brigitte, no one gets a chance to react because no one knows what happened to the man. Maybe this book is little bit about how one's life changes after experiencing such an ordeal, but even that's a stretch because the man himself does little to confront his own feelings about his experience.

The most confounding and frustrating thing about the book is the lack of resolve. The book ends rather abruptly and it is entirely unsatisfying. I wanted, if not resolution, some sense of how the man plans to continue on in life. If anything The Book of Revelation is a good conversation starter. It provides no answers but may get you thinking.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I look forward to your comments. Tell me about the books you're reading.