theendofmryscarletttho47833_f.jpgI’m not sure I can do justice to The End of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas; the central idea is so fascinating and based on such interesting but difficult theories that I’m not sure I can get my head around them all, and I’m sure I will have to re-read the novel again at some stage so that I can work through the concepts without having to work through the unfolding plot as well. Superficially it seems very straightforward: Ariel Manto is a PhD student whose sponsor has disappeared; they shared an interest in a Victorian author, Thomas Lumas, and in particular his mysterious lost work, The End of Mr Y, which is apparently cursed. Forced out of her university one day by the collapse of a building on the campus, she finds herself in a second-hand bookshop, stumbles across the book in a box with several other titles, and buys the lot with the last of her money. She reads it and discovers a key page is missing; while clearing out her sponsor’s things to make way for others to share her office, she comes across the missing page which he had in his possession all along, and now has the recipe for a potion (for want of a better word) which will allow her to access something called the Troposphere and is of course determined to try it out. Then it all gets weird. When this was reviewed on Simon Mayo’s Book Panel on Radio 5 earlier in the year, all of the reviewers raved about this book, and I agree that it is a wonderful thing, both in content and how it looks, and boy does it leave you with a lot to mull over.

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