Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

The ShortRead: Will Smith

books.jpg

The ShortRead of 25 February

Mainlander

Mainlander

Author: Will Smith

What's the story: No, not that Will Smith - unless the one you're thinking of is the scribe of award-winning TV shows Veep and The Thick Of It, in which case you're spot on. 

Mainlander is a book about loneliness. Colin Bygate may not appear lonely: a married school teacher, he's constantly surrounded by people. But he's a Mainlander wed to an Islander, and the delights of his new isolated Jersey home are starting to needle. After a chance encounter with one of his pupils on the coast who then fails to show up for school, Colin finds himself entangled in a search for a missing child the Island authorities would rather ignore.

It would be lazy of us to give Mainlander a back-of-the-cover review of "knockout"... but it really is.

Release date: Out now


Extract

Hundreds of feet below where Colin Bygate sat on a mosscovered rock, the Atlantic was eating away the coast. Huge surges rolled in to fling up their spray as they hit the cliff-base, then sprang back to collide with the next incoming wave and send a line of water skyward. The sinking sun gave the brilliant white of the foam an apricot tinge, and turned the vapour trails above to threads of fire. It was one of those sharp and clear dusks peculiar to Jersey, with a brightness that belied the approaching dark. A sky that might have hung over Eden.

Since he couldn’t climb down to the waves, he dreamt of them rising up to wash the Island clean of all the impurities that so irritated him.

A vast storm, a second Flood: that was what was needed. One that would carry off the bankers, the lawyers, the accountants and all the others who looked down on him from their vertiginous social position, with their sports cars, their boats and their skiing holidays. It was his wife’s sensitivity to his low altitude, and his resentment that he should be made to care about it, that had brought him here tonight.

‘Rob and Sally have invited us to Chamonix for New Year.’

‘I don’t know if we can afford it. We’re stretched enough with the mortgage, and we’ve got to get your car through a service in February.’

‘Sally says they’ll pay.’

‘No.’

‘Why not? She’s my best friend and she can afford it.’

‘You mean he can afford it.’

‘Don’t be jealous.’

‘I’m not jealous.’

‘You’ve such a problem with money, you’re really not suited to this Island at all.’

‘That’s not true. You can’t just throw that in. Hey, come on, look at me.’

‘I’d rather not. I don’t like your face when you know you’re wrong.’

Colin wasn’t being disingenuous: he didn’t have a problem with money. He just preferred it to be earned rather than inherited, but he could live with this inequality on the grounds that people inherit plenty of things that give them an unfair advantage in life – a disarming smile, a propensity for kicking a ball, or precocious numeracy. His problem with Rob de la Haye was Rob de la Haye. He didn’t like the way the man laughed at his car.

‘Renault 5! Don’t drive it too long, you’ll grow tits!’ Rob had a Porsche 911, which, on an island that had a maximum speed limit of 40 m.p.h., on only two sections of road, Colin saw as a needless display of conspicuous wealth.

Neither did he like his attitude to the local itinerant Portuguese workers.

‘Did you hear about the Porko who took a bath?’

‘No.’

‘Nor did I!’

Or his relentless stereotyping of the Scots, Irish, Mancunians and Liverpudlians who made up the remaining seasonal workforce of receptionists, waitresses and car-hire representatives.

‘Check your change – Scouser on the till.’

In fact, he didn’t like much about his world view.

‘Take away unemployment benefit, they’ll soon find jobs.’

It irked him that Rob’s horizons were witlessly free of storm clouds. ‘Keep going like this and in five years I can buy a parish,’ he joked, after another run of luck on the markets, at which Colin smiled while inwardly praying for a crash.

He shifted on his granite perch, unsettled by the idea that maybe his wife was right, that underneath the layers of antipathy he was just jealous. His own father had died when Colin was seven. Rob’s had kept on living and acquiring hotels, one of which, the Bretagne, he’d given to his son on his twenty-first birthday.

The thing that Colin really had a problem with, and which had hit him like a telegraph pole to the chest, was that his wife had dated Rob when they were teenagers. It had come out as a response to his diatribe over Rob and Sally’s plans to build a swimming-pool in the grounds of the old farmhouse they were having renovated at a level of expense that Colin found simply incomprehensible. Sally was flying back and forth to London, sourcing furniture and wallpaper, because she was determined that guests shouldn’t recognise any element of her house from visits to the few local department stores. Colin was aware that he had to tread carefully because Sally was Emma’s oldest friend but, like many such friendships, his wife seemed to spend more time talking about the qualities she didn’t like in Sally than those she did. Hence Colin felt on firm ground when it came to expressing his heartfelt but puritanical disdain at the de la Hayes’ need for a swimming-pool when surrounded by such beautiful beaches.

‘But they won’t be living near any beaches in St Lawrence. It’s bang in the centre,’ Emma had pointed out.

‘It’s an island. You’re never that far from a beach.’

‘It’s nice to have your own pool, though. Beaches are full of kids and tourists. And the sea’s only warm enough to swim in about one month a year.’

‘It’s refreshing.’

‘It’s bloody freezing.’


Related

books.jpg

The ShortRead: S J Watson

books.jpg

The ShortRead: Neil Gaiman

books.jpg

The ShortRead: Peter Swanson

books.jpg

The ShortRead: Philip Teir

books.jpg

The ShortRead: Stuart MacBride

books.jpg

The ShortRead: William Gibson

Comments

More

Donald Ray Pollock: Inside the mind of a nightmare specialist

Modern master of disturbing prose on the moments from page & screen that made him who he is

05 Oct 2016

Harry Potter fans can now discover their Patronus

Don't lie, you want to give it a go, don't you?

by David Cornish
23 Sep 2016

20 Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About Stephen King

21 Sep 2016

Your chance to see excellent US author Donald Ray Pollock

And also have a beer! Win win

08 Sep 2016

Return to a nineties classic: Chuck Palahniuk on Fight Club

20 years since Fight Club, the author tells us how he’d rewrite his seminal novel for 2016

17 Aug 2016

Details announced for new Partridge book

'Nomad' will arrive this autumn

21 Jul 2016

13 famous books that had very different working titles

by Chris Sayer
10 Jun 2016

George RR Martin has just confirmed this brilliant GOT fan theory

A badass character gets a badass back story

by David Cornish
01 Jun 2016

Twitter account Photoshops 90s’ books to give them titles they deserve

12 Apr 2016

You're going to want these stunning new Shakespeare books

The books your bookshelf deserves

by David Cornish
12 Apr 2016