This book, for me, was a curious read. It made me think on many levels and I am hoping that this is what Colin Dodds had in mind when he wrote it.
Told in the first person, our narrator is Tommy Pharoni who relates to us the development of his life, which is deeply influenced, even manufactured, by the death of his friend, Harry. Actually, it is more Harry’s reappearance in the land of the living which is the catalyst for the alteration to Tommy’s previously quite staid and humble existence into one where he has status and influence, although he learns that this can be a fragile thing.
The novel begins with a group of friends losing one of their number, the aforementioned Harry to what appears to be suicide. Many questions are raised as to why Harry may have left this world, when he is suddenly spotted in the flesh, so to speak, and this prompts even more enquiry and debate.
The friendship group consists of Harry and Tommy as mentioned and Andrew, his sister Maud, Roy and Theo. All seem to be surviving rather than thriving except for Maud, who has a career in insurance but Harry’s death and the furore that develops around it propels them all into territories unknown. Their lives then become influenced by external pressures and expectations that threaten to tear them apart as friends as well as creating fractures in their own individual existences.
Dodds chooses to have a lot of his dialogue written as a play with stage directions; as Tommy is an aspiring screenwriter, this is apt as well as adding something to the whole feel of the book as something unconventional, mirroring the fact that it deals in ideas that are at times philosophical and at others, disturbing to contemplate.
This book is not challenging to read as Dodds’ prose is a delight. There were certain sentences that I mulled over, like a good wine, repeating them in my head for what they conjured and how they had been crafted. However, it is challenging in the ideas that it proposes about religion and its possible exploitation, and greed and control.
Pharoni is not a bleak book – Tommy’s narration helps this – but it is certainly not an uplifting read. Thought-provoking and intelligent and one to contemplate on when finished.