Thursday, December 08, 2005

Just Read: The Blue Suit by Richard Rayner

This is a book which was on my "look for" list for probably a decade, since it was originally published in 1995. (I bet I saw a good review in Publishers Weekly and wrote it down then; I did that a lot in those days.) I finally got a copy last month, a cheap ex-library hardcover, and now I've read it.

Short review: it really wasn't worth waiting a decade for.

Longer review: it's a perfectly serviceable minor memoir, quite well written, about a British young man in the mid-'70s who drifted into minor (solo) crime, possibly because of his father (who had embezzled a minor fortune two decades earlier). Rayner actually doesn't have a whole lot of story to tell: there are no major events, for good or bad, so he wanders aimlessly into minor house-breaking, and then wanders back out again.

The title doesn't have much to do with anything; Rayner's one suit at the time was blue, but he only mentions it a couple of times, and doesn't tie it into his thievery. He also doesn't draw any strong parallels between his father's crimes and his own; a bit of research about his father's life and crimes (and perhaps a parallel plot) could have served this book well. As it is, it reads like the kind of memoir written to get something off of the writer's chest; that's good for him, but it's not sufficient reason to get published.

It's a mostly unstructured book; Rayner runs through this period of his life chronologically but that's the only thread that organizes the book. He doesn't dig enough into his own feelings for his father, nor does he really examine his own motives; I get the feeling that he still doesn't understand the young man he was. The sentences and paragraphs are all well-formed and interesting, but the story they tell doesn't, in the end, go much of anywhere. Rayner was a thief, and then he stopped. Good for him, but not for the book.

After this past decade's flood of memoirs, there's no particular reason for anyone to search out this one. The North Central Regional Library (Headquarters: Wenatchee, WA) was justified in purging this from their holdings.

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