Review of Tigerman – Nick Harkaway

Posted: June 13, 2014 in general fiction, Review
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Lester Ferris, a soldier near to retirement, is British Brevet-Consul on the island of Mancreu. The sole resident of Brighton House, he’s been left to oversee the inevitable demise of the island, which is mouldering under a combination of volcanic and chemical pollution. The population is leaving in droves, burning their possessions and putting to sea, that is, those who aren’t are up to their eyeballs in drug running, organ theft and money laundering. None of this is Lester’s problem. His orders are to sit tight, keep his nose clean and pointedly ignore the Black Fleet of shady unregistered ships anchored just offshore in the Bay. Instead, he spends his days worrying about the likely fate of a small boy, a comic fanatic, a clever internet-savvy kid, who is everywhere and nowhere at once. Theirs is a relationship based on quiet periods of reflection, lived as much in the spaces as in the words themselves. Lester sees a chance to be a father, the prospect tenuous, tender, and terrifying. But when their mutual friend, happy-go-lucky tea-house owner, Shola, is mowed down in cold blood, Lester finds he is unable to look away any longer. As the island succumbs to violence, Lester discovers that if he is to realise his dream of family – is that even possible?—he must step up. Mancreu, and the boy, need Lester to become a hero.

Harkaway is a writer to watch, partly out of intrigue because his latest novel, Tigerman, is a surprise. It isn’t an easy story. There’s an uncomfortable indifference that permeates the narrative, an embarrassment of the sort you experience when watching reality TV, in those cheesy or cringe-worthy moments. Harkaway makes you want to look away, and it’s a clever stratagem, one which strengthens his theme of unconditional love between and a father and a son, between a boy and his mother. Harkaway demonstrates what people are driven to do, the lengths they will go to, when they can’t choose to look away. He does this against a backdrop of environmental degeneration and political tension, then picks out the minutiae of island life, imbuing it with colour and texture, to bring Mancreu and its inhabitants into sharp relief. In fact, the author’s writing style is not unlike the book’s cover artwork:bold and vibrant and yet also slightly indistinct. Tigerman is beautifully written, even when it’s ugly. Tomorrow’s period drama, Tigerman is a story for readers across the board: from lovers of the film Tea with Mussolini to fans of About a Boy.

William Heinemann

Supplied by Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Lee


A four-time winner of Sir Julius Vogel Award, Lee Murray writes friction for children and adults. She lives in New Zealand with her husband and teenaged children.

A review of her YA novel Misplaced can be found here

Conclave, an anthology featuring her novella has just been released.


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