Belonging by Ron Butlin

Ron Butlin is an author who was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on  January 1, 1949.  He had various jobs, including a lyricist with a pop band, a barnacle scraper on Thames barges in London, England, a footman attending embassies and country houses, and a male model before he turned his talents to writing.  

ron butlin

His most recent novel Belonging centres around 29 year old Jack.  He is unsure of what he wants from life.  He and his girlfriend, Anna are living as caretakers of an apartment complex at a Swiss ski resort.

Jack got swept up by Anna’s enthusiasm so they spend their days checking empty apartments.  They live a rather claustrophobic existence. Anna is a keen on psychoanalysis, and she’s probably incapable of sustaining a long term love.  Jack gets annoyed by her behavior but he never considers ending their relationship.

One night, during a snowstorm, a man slips and dies from his injuries. The only person who witnessed the death is the man’s lover, the same woman, Therese.  This accidental death of a man in an apartment on the complex proves to be the catalyst for Jack and Anna deciding to head back to their native Scotland.  On the way back, Jack realizes he cannot continue and so he takes a cowardly way out.

He quickly develops a relationship with Therese,  a woman who is emotionally unstable.  When he thinks back, Jack remembers his first sight of Therèse as the moment things started to go wrong.  Jack and Therese end up in a kind of tiny, loose commune in the Spanish countryside.  Jack realises that this relationship can have no good ending.  Jack is not a bad person, but he lacks a strong sense of self so he cannot work out his own plan and make it work.  He also lacks the judgement to recognize that he keeps getting involved with the same kind of woman.

The writing  is straightforward and descriptive and the book is readable.  However, not everybody will be really interested in reading about the somewhat miserable people at the centre of the story but I found it gripping and it held my interest to the end.

Valerie Penny




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