James Orr—husband, father, reliable employee and all-around model citizen—awakes one morning to find half his face paralyzed. Waiting for the affliction to pass, he stops going to work and wanders his idyllic estate, with its woodland, uniform streets and perfectly manicured lawns. But there are cracks in the veneer. And as his orderly existence begins to unravel, it appears that James himself may not be the man he thought he was.
Tom Lee’s clipped, cold-blooded sentences form a thin mantle over the sinisterly simmering plot of this mesmerising first novel, inspired by the author’s own experience of incapacitating health problems.
It is hard not to think of Kafka’s Metamorphosis when reading the book, partly because Lee’s writing, too, pulses with humour and an appreciation of the abject silliness of human beings ... [Lee] writes with a needle, and with a short-story master’s eye for structure. And although the plot is not predictable, when it yields its twists, they feel satisfyingly right.
The self-assurance of Lee’s prose is, however, far more secure here [than in his previous short story collection] ... Occasionally [Lee] succumbs to cliché... but for the most part Lee’s prose is marked by an understated descriptive acuity. His eye for detail is sharp ... he narrative concludes with a twist of sorts (it is not hard to foresee), but the real accomplishment of Tom Lee’s novel is its haunting evocation of the insidiously dystopian climate of English suburbia.