I know you should always abide by the old saying “never judge a book by its cover” but it really was the bright orange spine of this book that caught my attention when it was on the shelf in my local charity shop. When I pulled it out, the review quotations and its logo showing it was shortlisted for The Man Booker Prize 2014 convinced me that it was worth a read.
I must admit that it took me a little while to get into To Rise Again At A Decent Hour. I think I was partly put off by the length of the chapters- most of them are very long for a novel of this length and, as someone who hates leaving putting a book down mid-chapter, I found this slightly inconvenient if I was reading in the interstitial periods of my day. However, having said this, as the ‘identity forging’ started to develop I found that I couldn’t put the book down anyway, and actually used the length of the chapter as an excuse for myself to continue reading.
All of the reviews celebrating the humour of this book are definitely valid, I found myself smiling at various periods- not just Paul the character’s conversations with other characters, but also Paul the narrator’s comments directed at the reader- probably because I could identify with his stubbornness and skepticism, although I think most of us could! His emails demanding the removal of his website and other elements of the identity theft were also highly amusing. As a reader, you can really share his frustration at the idea of having his identity stolen and sort of love the fact that other people doubt him because of what the ‘thief’ seems to be doing with it.
It was also interesting to read a novel in which the narrator is a dentist, simply because it is not an obvious choice of profession. It was much more interesting than one might assume. In fact, it almost adds to the novel’s humour because it makes you realise some of the thing your dentist might think about you and your teeth. It was also a great choice of profession for this type of narrative, which I am sure was no coincidence, given the sheer number of people that a dental surgeon would come into contact with, adding to the initial mystery of the identity theft.
However, I am unsure whether I appreciate the religious content of the identity theft. Now, it in no way preaches anything to the reader, and can actually be quite interesting to learn about at times. It just seems slightly odd and, while it does avoid the cliché of unauthorised purchases that are commonly in identity theft narratives, it is a little confusing. I think the idea of it was to suggest the idea that no one is ever so stuck in their beliefs that they can’t change them, but, at least to me, the real reason wasn’t ever really made clear.
I also felt that information about Paul and Connie’s relationship could have been further developed. I understand that it wasn’t the most important elements of the book, but I did feel as if i wanted to know more. Having said this, the slight nods to other parts of Paul’s life outside of his job, such as his baseball interest, did help to build him as a character, so perhaps that was what the mention of his relationship with Connie was supposed to be, too.
Overall, I did enjoy To Rise Again At A Decent Hour and have already recommended it to a friend who asked me if I knew any easy-to-read, light-hearted books. Whilst I felt that some parts of the narrative where merely brushed upon, I never felt as if I wanted to give up on the book, and I think it is Paul’s dry and, in some ways, naive humour that really kept me engaged. My advice to potential readers: the humour is worth the more odd elements.