Nigel Williams hilarious yet thought-provoking new novel, R.I.P, reviewed by James Walton.

The Synopsis

Retired bank manager George Pearmain is, apparently, dead. According to the behaviour of everyone around him, it would seem that he is no more. Not only that, but his mother has also passed away too - and on the eve of her 99th year, poor dear. Not only that, it could be that they were both murdered. He feels fine otherwise. As George's family gather for the birthday-celebration-that-never-was, he hovers around the house, watching and listening, entirely unseen. As a result, he makes all sorts of discoveries about himself, his wife Esmeralda and his supposedly happy family... 

 

R.I.P. by Nigel Williams

R.I.P by Nigel Williams

(Corsair, £18.99)

Nigel Williams is another writer who has been entertaining readers for decades, in his case by combining the comic novel with something darker and more melancholy. Sure enough, both of these elements are present and correct in R.I.P. Not many paragraphs go by without at least one great joke. Yet this is also a novel whose main subject is death.

Indeed, the main character is dead when the book opens—although he doesn’t realise it immediately. George Pearmain, a retired suburban bank manager, can still hear his wife shouting at him as he lies in bed, thinking he’s just sleeping off a hangover. Only when he finds himself unable to move or to make himself heard does the penny start to drop. Luckily (or not) George can still observe his extended family as they respond to his death. Oh yes, and it also turns out that he was murdered…

Williams has long been hard to beat at portraying middle-aged male disappointment. But while there can’t be many things more disappointing than death, the message here is by no means clear cut. The longer the novel goes on, the more George thinks that perhaps his life and marriage were pretty happy after all. Unfortunately, it’s a bit late to do much about it.

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