Guest Review of The Anniversary by Jonathan Hill

In the Murray household Michael and I rarely read the same books but occasionally our tastes coincide, most notably with the novels of William Boyd. And from time to time we tell each other of a book the other would probably like. One such is "The Anniversary" by Jonathan Hill which I read a few weeks ago. Click here to read my review. 
Michael got up unusually early this morning and some while later handed me this review which I'm delighted to post here today.

Michael Murray's review of The Anniversary by Jonathan Hill


The nihilistic narrator of 'The Anniversary' engages in bizarre shaving rituals and belongs to that cast of unusual and socially challenged outsiders who first made their appearance in Jonathan Hill's wonderful short story collections: Eclectic and Beyond Eclectic. The novella is a page turning psychological thriller that is perfectly plotted and has great forward drive.

The action is permeated with celebrations of Christmas and moves effortlessly back and forth through time, impressing upon us that childhood torments are exacerbated by thwarted Christmas expectations which extend into adulthood. Perhaps that's why so many adults behave so badly at office parties. The office in The Anniversary is a snake pit of suppressed malice that finds its release in alcohol and contrived Christmas bonhomie at the office party from hell. Childhood torments produce tormented individuals and the torments are never more so acute than at Christmas as this beautifully constructed and macabre novella demonstrates so cruelly and unexpectedly.

The anniversary is full of Jonathan Hill's trade mark prose: similes and analogies that make us stop and re-read sentences with admiration and respect for their unexpected appropriateness. For example, the person who initiates the narrator on his first day at the office characterises her individual co-workers with 'ruthlessness masquerading as humour, a sniper picking off each person one by one'. And I have never before been aware that the recovery from a bereavement could be compared to the movements of a stapler until I encountered Jonathan Hill's marvellous analogy.

The first person point of view is pitch perfect and demonstrates a breath-taking technique. Anyone who has ever attempted to write Stream of Consciousness will be aware of the immense technical difficulties involved such as the presentation of time and the integration of the physical actions of people and objects outside the narrator's direct consciousness; not to mention the tortuous grammatical problems occasioned by such an approach. All these technical difficulties have to be solved if the action is to appear seamless and continuous. Jonathan Hill's complete mastery of the technique eradicates any notion that such difficulties might even exist!

The Anniversary provides the delightful experience of an author extending his range. It has echoes of Bret Easton Ellis and Dostoyevsky, if Dostoevsky had a sense of humour. Highly recommended.

Michael and I both enjoyed The Anniversary as a benefit of our Kindle Unlimited subscription and it's available to download from the Amazon Kindle Store if you follow this link or (if it works on your device) there's a Previewer below.