Sunday, February 04, 2007


Title:Turtle Diary
Author: Russell Hoban
Publisher: Bloomsbury

William is a forty something divorcee, living in a bed-sit in London. Formerly in advertising he now works in a bookshop. he feels like there is something lacking in his life. when he visits London Zoo he sees a group of giant turtles, and reads about how they can navigate the oceans to unfailingly return to the tiny Ascension Islands to give birth. this ability unrealised by captivity comes to represent what is missing from William's life. Leaving from a further visit to the turtles he passes Neaera, and with an exchanged look he knows that’s she feels the same way. A woman in her forties she has a reasonably successful career as a children's writer - Gillian the Vole and Delia Swallow. However she has hit a wall of writer's block, of dissatisfaction, of a need for something that the turtles come to represent. In many other hands William and Neaera would find happiness in each other. Here they know they have too much in common, not least the idea of the turtles and freedom, so instead of feeling uplifted they feel resentment. Yet something must be done, they must address the turtles and so awkwardly things develop. But will these developments actually secure the release or happiness that they desire?

Russell Hoban turns 82 today. Turtle Diary was the first of his some 14 novels. Born in America he moved to London in pursuit of fictional ideas. There he worked in advertising, before moving on to children's books. Roles many of his characters have taken on over the years, including here. Turtle Diary establishes many of the elements that inform his all of Hoban's novels - most are set in London, and most alternate between view points, overlapping thought and situations creating a certain synchronicity, which fits with his typically just a little off kilter view point of the world. By turns melancholic and humorous, I suspect that the balance of those says something about your state of mind at the time of reading. Experience normally has me delighting in his characters and language, which I undoubtedly did while reading this. Though as I turned the final page, I was left with the bleak - relating a degree to much to a turtle in a tank, capable of much more.

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