In a way, Damon Galgut’s “In a Strange Room” only comes to life in the third and final section. This is where there is real pace and drama and is so different to what comes before that the novel eventually seems more like a loose collection of novellas. Yes, there is a constant character throughout (the narrator), and yes, the first two sections are more close-coupled, and yes, there is a continual thread in the travelling described…but having said all that, I wasn’t not convinced.
I’m also not convinced by the way Galgut switches haphazardly between first- and third-person for the main character – sometimes in the middle of the same paragraph. I’m sure this is supposed to be meaningful in some way, but it came across to me as annoying and confusing – and somehow little more than a cheap trick.
Make no mistake, there is some powerful writing in “In a Strange Room”, but I struggled with the self-indulgence in the first two sections and, for all I’ve said about it, the third felt just a little too long.