A motorcycle messenger goes into a small park in London to paint the words ‘White Lightning’ on the tank of his bike. This is the beginning of an extraordinary novel. It is told over the space of a few months, and in these few months one man’s whole life – his failures, his successes, his longing for peace and fulfilment, his loves and his tragedies – are recounted. These memories include his film Suzi Crispin, Night Nurse, and – the darkest moment – the death of his son, which has haunted him.
He inherits a small amount of money and buys a rundown farm in South Africa, where he dreams of creating an Arcadia. On the farm is a captive baboon, Piet, who becomes startlingly involved in his new life. He also has a love affair with a local woman, and becomes hauntingly involved with an African family of squatters. All the while the narrator contemplates his own life back in England and so the novel is also a sharp commentary on what Englishness means.
This is a novel about the human enterprise. It is surprising, tender, funny and utterly original.