Seth Gardner’s life is a multilayered performance that appears to bridge the ages with many costume changes – he’s a latter day Oedipus masquerading as a bacchanalian poet while directing this modern day Greek tragedy with the scruples of a neurotic Sigmund Freud
Superficially he’s an amateur inpressario who brings together a diverse artistic group, named the Friday Follies, to play out a form of intellectual charades at his Notting Hill salon. But it is these contrived parlour games that
unwittingly reveal the long suppressed traumas of the key players and by exposing their vulnerabilities the Machiavellian Gardener appears to be manipulating their loyalties for his own ultimately selfish goals.
The cast of the Follies are a cosmopolitan mix of sexuality, character and background but all with an unthinking devotion to the charismatic Gardner. The starring role in this supporting cast of characters and the subject of most of his attention is the flame haired Rebecca whose infatuation with Gardner becomes all consuming just as the oedipal subplot reveals the strength of his unhealthy feelings towards his mother; a mirror image of Rebecca.
In this, Tara Guha’s first novel she delivers a relatively complex plot in the format of a play with acts and scenes from the past contextualised by the dialogue of a series of recent police interviews. As the amateur dramatics turns into the real life drama of a murder inquiry the finger of suspicion moves inexorably towards Gardener whose sudden disappearance leads to the systematic unravelling of his previously hidden private past.
The Follies have interests ranging from the musical to the epicurean but when their artistic dream turns into the preverbial nightmare they begin to resemble a group of addicts suddenly having a moment of rare clarity and
realising the supplier of their social highs is probably nothing more than an unscrupulous dealer and their search for the truth leaves them feeling emotionally clean and free from his psychological hold on them.
The author develops these flawed characters sympathetically and gives the plot shades of colour by alluding to Gardner’s dark past while maintaining the vibrancy of the exchanges between the other characters. Gardner’s ability to permeate the lives of all he touches gives him an almost supernatural air of invincibility and we are left wondering when not if he will return in his latest incarnation.
Untouchable Things by Tara Guha
published by Legend Press at £8.99
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