‘I like to hear his name, especially when he says it. His voice is rich and dark, like those jams they sell in tiny pots at twice the price of normal jars, and they call “preserves”, to justify the cost. I chose him for his name, in fact – half Mayfair hairdresser and half Vatican incumbent.’
So speaks Nial, a woman with a man’s name, and confused about her gender – uncertain about most things, save her obsession with John-Paul. She shares this obsession with modest Mary and conscientious Bryan. All three lead secret lives. Mary, a conventional housewife with a dream-home in the suburbs, is inflicting burns on her genitals and stockpiling vibrators; Bryan, a mother-harried city clerk, updates his Disaster Scrapbook and takes his snake to bed, seeking refuge from Chaology and the horrors of the quantum revolution; Nial swaps sex for blood-drenched dreams of an ex-Naxi butcher in the High Street.
All seek help and healing from the mysterious John-Paul, but is he sage and saviour, or untrained unlicensed con-man? In her powerful and hilarious new novel, Wendy Perriam mixes the blackest of black comedy with a serious examination of madness in its many forms – the religious excesses of miracles and visions; the crazy chaos of modern phsyics; and especially the distortions of the fifty-minute hour itself; those wild or weeping sessions on the analyst’s couch. With her usual wit and gusto, she explores the murky world of the psychologically disturbed – a world as comically bizarre as it is genuinely tragic.