REVIEW by Megan Jones

NWR Issue 105

Half Plus Seven

by Dan Tyte

Meet Bill McDare, a high-powered career man who spends his lunch breaks drinking on the street with the homeless. But it doesn’t stop there. In spite of earning enough money to put ‘the entire Brady Bunch through college’, he lives as a lodger in a house that has a hole in the bathroom floor big enough for you to see down into the kitchen and puke through if you have had one too many!

Told in the first person, Half Plus Seven follows the cynical yet comical (and undoubtedly crude) tale of Bill who – following a trip to a psychic – begins to right the wrongs in his life.

The novel consists mostly of the trivial pitfalls of Bill’s strange existence, interspersed with blunt yet surprisingly philosophical observations; ‘Just as a carpenter laughs in the face of splinters […], a drinker should become immune to hangovers.’ A further example of this is found in the way Bill refers to himself in the opening chapter as ‘a clusterfuck of failed relationships, shot down dreams, hypochondriac breakdowns, parental indifference and bullshit jobs.’

Yet occasionally the reader is dragged beyond the shallow (and often drunken) surface of Bill’s character into the repressed mistakes of his past. The lowest points in his life I will not mention for fear of spoiling the surprise, but they are slipped in with a skilled subtlety which will leave your jaw almost touching the carpet!

One of the most brilliant things about the novel is the way in which Tyte breaks the fourth wall by interrupting Bill’s train of thought with a narrator’s need to justify his actions. For example, ‘And yes, I realise this is a somewhat teenage reaction.’ This is effect is enhanced through the use of colloquial language, truly drawing you into the character’s frame of mind: ‘I sank my scotch in victory and bounced to the bogs.’ The impact of this is further intensified through the inconsistent structure of the narrative, as Tyte delivers his novel through a series of variously sized paragraphs interspersed with ‘emails’ and bullet points.

Despite living in a world that largely centres around himself and alcohol – a notion which is firmly established in the opening chapter with Bill’s remark ‘Just drinking. And thinking. And thinking about drinking’ – Tyte’s protagonist does have people in his life who matter to him. A small group of misfits which serve to remind us that each and every one of us is affected by this thing we call life.

It is through this haphazard collection of sub-characters that Tyte reveals his gift for description: short and memorable lines including ‘[Pete’s] comedy repertoire was perfectly pitched at embarrassing offspring’ and ‘Barry […] wore black jeans, far too tight for his figure or age.’

A perceptive take on what it really means to be a successful man living in the big city, Dan Tyte should take well-earned a bow for his raw and impressive debut novel.

Megan Jones reviews for New Welsh Review online.




       


previous review: When the Roads Meet
next review: The Hunting Gun



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