Josephine and her husband Joseph have left behind unemployment, friends and family in the ‘hinterland’ for a new life in new city. They find dingy digs and uninspiring administrative jobs, and are just glad to be earning. We are with Josephine right from the start as she attends her job interview, and this sets the tone for the book: “The person who interviewed her had no face. Under other circumstances if the job market hadn’t been so bleak for so long – if the summer hadn’t been so hot and muggy – this might have discouraged Josephine from stepping through the door of that office in the first place”.
This short snappy novel deals with large life things. Fresh and interesting ideas about birth, death and relationships are delivered with great style, and the praise quote from Ursula K Le Guin on the jacket is both well-deserved and appropriate. I have found this book impossible to categorise, as is true of many of le Guin’s books. I also thought of Jose Saramago (particularly All the Names) and early Margaret Atwood (particularly The Edible Woman). But the book is wholly itself. Phillips manages to retain emotional impact despite sometimes bizarre goings on.
This would make a perfect ‘off the beaten track’ holiday book, being very readable and entertaining.