For once the blurb on the cover of a book veers dangerously close to the heart of the matter, and, in the case of my edition of David Szalay’s “Spring”, the key word used is ‘contemporary’. It is an unashamedly modern take on relationships – even if a little fanciful at times (who in their right mind drives from London to Edinburgh for a weekend away?!).
The thing that struck me first and firmly – and then consistently – is how well Szalay demonstrates how difficult relationships can be. He gives us this in spades, ably aided by his two leads who are, one has to say, at the ‘wet end’ of the decisiveness spectrum. Relationships: what they are, how we describe them, what they feel like – should feel like and do feel like – how tenuous and fragile they are.
There is an element of Men=Mars and Women=Venus here, but the over-riding theme is just how different we are and how unknowable – as an individual as well as to each other. James and Katherine seem to be profoundly lost most of the time.
James is always on a hiding to nothing, and I found myself batting both for and against him during the book. If anything it was more often the latter. He needed a good talking to… Or Katherine did. Or both of them.
Given the profiles of the main couple, it was correct and inevitable that the novel should have ended unresolved (spoiler, sorry), because that’s how things are most of the time.
Perhaps it is also a contemporary, non-romantic view on the nature of things…