The Sound Of My Voice by Ron Butlin

Black Ace, 1994, 143p.

The Sound Of My Voice

Butlin had made a reputation as a poet but this was his first novel* and an unusual debut it was. Presented from the viewpoint of Morris Magellan, a married man with two children he refers to as “the accusations” it is an absorbing study of an alcoholic and his descent into self-disgrace.

What marks The Sound Of My Voice out as especially bold is the use of the second person to carry the narrative. Second person novels are rare; successful ones are rarer still. That Butlin carries the conceit off is a tribute to his writing skill. It helps that in its opening the novel concentrates on Magellan’s childhood where his remote father is presented as a major (negative) influence on his subsequent life.

Using the second person could have been an invitation to the reader to be complicit in Magellan’s woes but it is not merely a literary trick, the voice is there for a purpose – which I shall not spoil even though the introduction, by Randall Stevenson, does. (Or would have had I not taken the precaution of avoiding reading it till after I’d finished the novel.)

This is a short book but all the better for it.

*Published in 1987 by Canongate. This Black Ace edition is described as definitive; corrected and revised by the author.

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