Jonathan Bennett’s first novel, After Battersea Park, covers a lot of ground in fewer than 200 pages. While most of the action takes place in Sydney, Australia, and Toronto, this whirlwind tour of long-separated twins also lands in Hawaii, London, Scotland, Madrid, and Mallorca. The twins — Curt, an Australian jazz musician, and William, a Canadian visual artist — were driven in different directions at the age of four when their drug-addict father separated from their mother. She soon found she could not feed the children and had to give them up. At age 27, they learn of each other’s existence and begin a journey that draws them together from different ends of the world.
Bennett has a deft, suggestive touch: « Curt’s aunt, Jilly, found her slumped in her chair. Not late for tennis but dead. » He also has a flair for writing subtle erotic scenes, as in this picnic enjoyed by William and his much older lover: « Spring slid into summer that quiet afternoon, in full view of the city. » The high points of After Battersea Park are its well-wrought scenes sparkling with wry humour and wit. Bennett has the ability to place the reader right on the spot: in a crowd of Mallorcans trying to extract a precious cigarette lighter from a storm-water drain (which ends with Curt lighting a cigarette to a fine round of applause); or hiding in a bedroom closet with William while a couple whose house he has secretly entered make love not 10 feet away. A neatly constructed plot, engaging three-dimensional characters, and a touch of devil-may-care impudence make this novel a delight. — Mark Frutkin
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