Helen Smith has written a very entertaining work that is also piercing in its insight in her book Being Light.
The satire about “Cool Britannia” opens with Roy Travers inflating a bouncy castle at a charity carnival. The castle gets caught in the breeze and takes flight. Roy continues to float until the castle loses air and lands on a bucolic farm. When a woman informs him he is Paradise, Roy concludes that he has died and gone to heaven.
He is, in fact, in the hideaway of a former circus performer who is concealing a stolen elephant. Meanwhile, Roy’s wife Sheila is convinced Roy has neither died nor run away with another woman and she is picking up signals from aliens about his location.
Being Light is populated by a large but manageable cast of characters whose relationship with one another is slowly revealed throughout the book. They include the Mrs. Ellington, the private investigator Sheila hired to help find Roy; a famous animal trainer; jaded journalist Jane Memory; Jeremy, a dedicated young activist who is trying to stop the traffic.
With a light touch, Smith exposes some sad truths of modern life. One character is obsessed with classifications and labels, vowing, “If I know as much as possible about everything then every choice I make will be informed.”
She also deftly weaves issues of animal rights and the role of men in modern society into the surreal mystery. One character notes that men aren’t necessary any more and will only be valued as long as they are exotically different from women.
The plot feels a bit disjointed at times and I was hoping for more of crescendo at the end. But for this genre which was not my usual fare, I found it quite enjoyable.
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