Europe at Dawn by Dave Hutchinson

Solaris, 2018, 358 p.

The third of this year’s BSFA Award nominees for best novel that I have read.

 Europe at Dawn cover

This is a pleasing enough conclusion to Hutchinson’s Fractured Europe sequence. We meet once again old friends Rudi and Rupert. Some loose ends are tied up. As usual Hutchinon’s prose goes down smoothly even if it contains the occasional barb such as, “Friends. Always there when they need you.” We make new acquaintances like Alice, a minor diplomat in the Scottish Embassy in Tallinn, to whom is brought the supposed head of St Magnus martyr, Kirkwall, which embroils her in various machinations involving Les Coureurs des Bois and its adversaries, and Ben, a refugee from Africa, stuck for a time on an Aegean island whose fellow refugee occupants are sustained by a rotating system of aid from southern European countries as a barrier to onward travel. The text explicitly references Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, an acknowledgement of Hutchinson’s debt to the cold war thriller. We also have the return of Professor Mundt, plus the Whitton-Whytes (responsible for all this byways into other-world stuff) and finally encounter the book of instructions as to how to map new landscapes over old. The story features not only Europe and the Community but also the Realm and there is the possible involvement in all these shenanigans of Americans who were maybe responsible for the Realm. (Boo; hiss.)

Europe in Autumn has been described as the first great Brexit novel (despite having been published before the 2016 referendum) but in among the delight of reading Hutchinson’s prose there’s a sense of despair that this Europe is more or less where we may be heading, though probably without a shadowy parallel world as an extra menace. Apropos of which we also have this observation, “For a certain type of English person, the Community was a wet-dream of Return, a place where tricky concepts like ethnic diversity and political correctness and sexual equality had never taken root, and gay rights were a misty fantasy. By any number of modern standards, it was an awful place, and that was probably why so many of the English wanted to move there.” Now there’s a nail hit firmly on its head.

However, a house described as, “deniable neutral ground, a place where the real business of the world could take place, far from the public eye,” maybe panders too much to the conspiracy adherents amongst us. But it does sit well within what is still essentially a spy novel.

Hutchinson is good. Reading this was a delight even if overall the book seemed more like a collection of loosely connected short stories than a novel per se. His is a world (two worlds?) so wonderfully imagined and described that it is something of a wrench not to be able to go back to it again to explore it more fully.

Pedant’s Corner:- “The sponsor themselves never showed up … .they’d” (himself … he’d… would be more grammatical,) homeopathy (homoeopathy, please – or even homœopathy,) “the actual food drop usually didn’t place until the day after” (usually didn’t take place until,) “She pronounced it” (Holyrood) “like ‘Hollywood’.” (Holyrood is pronounced like Hollywood,) “on face value” (it’s usually ‘at’ face value.) “‘Pour decourageur les autres’” (decourager,) “‘The Pozna thing?’” (Poznan, would that be?) Magnus’ (Magnus’s,) “came and went for time to time” (from time to time,) “an unsuccessful run for the Assembly” (Scotland doesn’t – and won’t – have an Assembly, but a Parliament.) “The Directorate had weighed up them up” (one too many ‘up’s,) “a rather battered old books of timetables” (book,) “there were a number of things” (there was a number.) “‘This is never going to be over, is it.’ said Rupert” (technically contains a question and so requires a question mark,) “the gallery were the only people” (couples a singular noun with a plural verb,) “off of” (just ‘off’, no ‘of’ required.)

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply

free hit counter script