Guest blogger: Bex @ Futures
The Humorist, by comedian Russell Kane, is one of those books where the authors reputation far precedes the book. It is easy to think that Kane’s stand up humour would apply to this book, but I was pleasantly surprised at how well thought out, philosophical yet provocative this book actually was.
Benjamin White is an expert in humour. He is able to understand it right down to the core, which in turn has led to him becoming a comedy critic at a local comedy club. His reviews are often severe, with witticisms often added by his colleague Miranda cruelly sealing the comedians fate. For someone able to understand comedy so well, it is thus a little surprising to find out that Benjamin has never smiled or laughed in his life. In infancy, he would cry and scream at the sound of laughter and visitors would have to stifle their giggles around him. Thoroughly enjoying researching about humour, one day Benjamin stumbles across something crazy; the recipe for murder…by laughter. He has found a joke that can kill; just what will he do with that information?
The premise of this novel was promising; a man who has never smiled in his life has found a recipe for what could be considered the most pleasant way to die. The beginning of the book was a little hard to get into, focussing more on the words than the actual storyline – I found that some sentences didn’t make sense, as if Kane was using a thesaurus to make the writing look a little more intelligent. Once the main body of story hit, though, I was certainly gripped. After the build up to Benjamin discovering this bombshell, it was great to follow him through London and then Africa as he tries to find out just what he needs to concoct his evil plan.
Some of the subject matter was a little disturbing – his sexual obsession with his married female cousin, the gritty scene towards the end where an unborn baby dies. The story matter is a little controversial and thought-provoking, delving into the psychology of a troubled young man, seemingly angry at the world. I found myself lacking empathy towards the main character, however – it was almost like everything he did was for attention and as if he would have a tantrum if he didn’t get his own way – like he was still a young boy trapped in an adult male’s body. I did, however, like his ballsy work colleague, Miranda. It seemed like she was the only person who could control Benjamin; they were work colleagues and occasional sexual partners and I thought they worked well together.
The storyline is gritty and a little hard to follow in places, jumping from one time frame to another and from location to location. Some scenes were gripping, keeping you anxiously turning the page to find out more; however some parts seemed strained; the story was stretched a little thin in places.
The ending itself was disappointing. After such a fantastic build up in the middle of the book, the crescendo you expect never comes – some major characters introduced in the midst of the story are never explained and the final chapter is a little rushed. Kane left plenty of loose ends and you find yourself wondering what just happened.
The premise of the book was fantastic – but it failed to deliver. I expected so much more from this book, especially at the end after such a build up, but my expectations were not met. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it is the worst book I have ever read but I would say that this is the kind of book that you only pick off the shelf once everything else has been read.
The Humorist is published by Simon & Schuster and is currently available in hardback and ebook formats. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review and to Bex for reading and reviewing for me!
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