Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Title: Going Out
Author: Scarlett Thomas
Publisher: 4th Estate

Going Out is the most recent novel by Scarlett Thomas, which has just been published as paper back, following an oversized edition. Going Out is essentially the story of Luke and Julie, two 25 year olds who have been best friends for years. Luke was diagnosed with XP, the illness which means he is allergic to sunlight (think those precocious children in The Others!), as a child. With the result he has been house bound all his life, carefully avoiding any exposure that could set off his allergies. His greatest ambition is to get out and see something of the world past the television. Julie has become increasingly paranoid and a hypochondriac, just about everything scares her. She won't travel by plane or train and can just about manage b-roads. The thought of staying inside, safe, for the rest of her life appeals. However Julie would do anything for Luke to get better. This is how the pair end up on a road trip to Wales - a healer having contacted Luke to suggest that if he comes to see him he might be able to help. The first half of the book is concerned with the set up, introducing these two and the rest of the characters. The latter part of the book sees all the characters suddenly brought together for this journey - on which each have their own goals.

Going Out is very much a contemporary novel, so that it is already dated by the references which mark when it is set. Which isn't to suggest that the book is out of date, rather that Scarlett Thomas has made this a novel dense with pop culture references. In a way that really makes the characters alive, making it easier for us to follow and appreciate what is happening. Being set in the south east of England with a journey to Wales, there is a certain level of this book which might work best if you are British. However Thomas' ability makes this a thoroughly enjoyable book, with characters that are lively and a situation that is filled with a light humour. Overall I found this an entirely enjoyable novel, and coupled with having read Dead Clever before, I can safely say I have become a big fan of Scarlett's work.

August 2003

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