Robert Lanaghan is a writer. Or at least he was, but since his second book was published, he hasn’t actually done any writing. Life has got in the way. There was his passionate affair with Siobhan McGovern, a world famous, if rather whacky singer, who turning up at his book launch, falls for him, and lives happily with him, becoming pregnant.
She hops off on tour, leaving Robert with the sole care of baby Ciara, and on her return, ceremoniously dumps him. Accepting an astronomical sum of money in return for a promise that he will never see his daughter again, Robert leaves, and spends his time travelling aimlessly around Europe in an effort to escape himself.
We pick up the tale as Robert flies, Ryanair, to London from Italy, intending to take a flight on to Dublin, although he has no home there now, or any plans. But he changes his mind, sends his luggage on, and instead, follows a family to Brighton in a vague quest to destroy their happiness.
A complex character, Robert is irresistible to the female race. Every woman he comes across, it seems, wants to seduce him. And though he can never resist them, he knows he will end up destroying them.
I was intrigued by the character, if a little disturbed by him, and loved his meandering thoughts as he wanders around Brighton, passively accepting whatever life brings. There’s a brilliant sense of place, and I adored all the references to Pinkie – another complicated woman magnet – from Graham Greene’s classic, Brighton Rock. It was fun, too, watching this quasi conman as he gets caught up in his own web of lies.
There’s an unexpected interlude, followed by a brief foray to Ireland, where Robert spends some time in an artist’s retreat that, with its lake and supper at seven, bears more than a passing resemblance to the Tyrone Guthrie centre at Annaghmakerrig. The story eventually ends where it started, back in Italy.
Still smarting from the loss of his child, Robert doesn’t get drawn into the relationships with Anna, or Laura, and when Juliette declares her love, he does something heinous to hurt her, and that, at two thirds way through the book, made me lose patience with him.
It wasn’t the act itself; that was shocking, but I could imagine this antihero having that moment of madness; it was the way, afterwards, this man who has live a kind of fantasy life for so long, suddenly becomes self-aware and penitent. To me, this just didn’t ring true.
The pace- which had rattled along up to that point, slowed suddenly, to a crawl. And when Maria, the youngest and most needy of all the women Robert has encountered, falls head over ears for him, there was a rather dull sense of déjà vu.
For much of the book Robert is travel weary; bruised and beaten, ill shaven, and shabbily dressed. Had he really got enough charisma to make all the women he encounters from teenagers and twenty something’s see through all that, and fall at his feet?
Or do writers, even those who have lost the will to write exude some mysterious sexual power? Whatever, the book redeemed itself by the finale, and I had made my peace with Robert. It’s not clear if he is reformed, or simply ready to destroy someone else, but the open ending allows the reader to feel that, perhaps, their antihero has found a semblance of peace of his own.
Dancing to the End of Love by Adrian White.
Black and White Publishing: €8.99 Kindle: €1.26.