REVIEW: Michael Nath – La Rochelle

Michael Nath La Rochelle (Route Books 2010) £8.99

Set against the political and sexual turmoil of 2004, Nath’s novel explores the world of the anti-hero, Mark Chopra. A child of immigrants who chooses a self-inflicted isolated life, a world in which his parents are a passing thought and guilt, his culture has been pasted over by the decor of the last dead lodger of his home and his alcoholism is out of control. This contrasts against the genial, academic backdrop of his profession as a Doctor, a best friend who may have split up with his girlfriend and the frustrated romantic figure of Chopra’s internal world. Chopra’s public world is defined by his friends and colleagues but it is the internal world of Chopra that is in constant flux. He is torn between love and the betrayal of his friend, Ian. Chopra is unable to make a decision and he is caught initially in a downward spiral of self destruction as he tries to tear away the layers of respectability, of achievement to discover who he really is.

There is one constant in the novel, that is Chopra’s love for Ian’s girlfriend, Laura, present throughout the novel by her absence and the mystery of her disappearance. The best sections of the novel are those that propel Chopra into places he has no control over, from fights in the pub, to the wonderful prose dealing with his encounter with Frank Whitby and Chas. The language in these sections are at there most vibrant, and there is a real fear that Mark Chopra could be going mad. The novel does deal with the deceit of the mind (what we choose to see, what we choose to accept as the truth). It is Whitby that releases Chopra from his cloak of respectability, of social entrapment, when he shoots Ian. This plays again with the deceit of the mind and the reader is not quite sure whether this happens or not. Ian is largely absent from the novel after this point. This is Nath’s skill, the blurring between the real world and the internal world of Chopra. There are quixotic elements at play in the novel, the truth is everything, love is everything and the pursuit of both is more important than the outcome. This can be seen Chopra’s love interest, Laura, and how she is seen by Chopra and how she is actually portrayed when she comes into the novel. These are two distinct characters and the Laura that comes into the final sections of the novel is a breath of fresh air, a strong character that was never truly fleshed out by Chopra or Ian. It is interesting to see how Laura changes Chopra’s world in a short time; it is the major twist in the novel and again explores ideas of truth. This is a novel about truth and manipulation, of deceit and friendship, and of love. This is a novel worth reading for such sections as Mark Chopra’s chivalry in the hotel bar, resulting in a drunken brawl, in the lively, friendly, dangerous and testosterone figures of Chas and Frank Whitby. Buy here.

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