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Review: Relatively Famous by Roger Averill

Erich Mayer

In Relatively Famous, Averill has produced a masterpiece of realistic fiction.
Review: Relatively Famous by Roger Averill

Book cover image: Relatively Famous by Roger Averill. Published by Transit Lounge Publishing.

For most people the ability to draw, to paint, and to play a musical instrument well enough to be in a band, all while qualifying as a teacher, might be satisfying. But for the somewhat self-effacing Michael Madigan, it is not enough. Even in the days when his marriage was a happy one and he enjoyed the love and affection of his mother and and children, his abilities were insufficient to assuage the pain of the absence of Michael’s father.

This is the world-famous Gil Madigan – a charming, talented and successful novelist. He is a man who puts his career and his loyalty to his readers above all else, a man who craves and gets recognition and adulation.

Relatively Famous is the story of these men and their families. Throughout the novel, Roger Averill uses two different yet skilfully interwoven voices. Michael narrates his own story with self-deprecating honesty, while Gil’s story is told in part by Michael but mostly through excerpts from Gil’s literary biography written by one Sinclair Hughes, a man Michael detests.

During a rare visit to Australia, Gil takes Michael and his wife, Nat, and her Italian parents to Florentino, a well regarded Melbourne restaurant. There, he charms Nat as he charms all he cares to. Indeed, Nat becomes a life-long devotee. ‘He wasn’t being selfish for his own sake, was he?’ Nat says later of Gil’s shortcomings. ‘It was for his writing.’

But Gil, for all his charm, is not a very likeable character and notoriously unreliable. Michael, on the other hand, is the sort of person you would value as a friend.

Michael says that when anyone was uncritical of his father he would ‘puncture their inflated opinion of him’ but also says that when someone criticised his father he ‘rushed to cover his flanks with praise’. This ambivalence towards the man colours, maybe even blights, his life. He envies his father’s sense of vocation as much as his father’s successes, and Michael’s failure to achieve greatness is a contributing factor to the breakdown of his marriage.

Describing the lives of these two men in depth gives Averill ample scope for some delightful insights.‘What’s’s the point of being in politics if you’re never going to have power?’ Nat wonders at one point, for instance. And then ‘What’s the point of being in power if you’re so afraid of losing it you never use it…?’

In Relatively Famous, Averill has produced a masterpiece of realistic fiction. The realism is enhanced by his characters inhabiting the real world, spending time in places many readers will know, and interacting with people many have at least heard of. But there is much more depth to the book than that. Averill understands success, mediocrity and failure. He gives insights into these conceits with a tolerant and impartial simplicity enclosed in beautiful language.


★★★★☆

Relatively Famous 
By Roger Averill
Published by Transit Lounge Publishing
Format: ISBN: 978-0-9954098-4-2 
Trade PB 304pp
Rights: World
Publication Date: 01 /04 /2018 

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Erich Mayer is a retired company director and former organic walnut farmer. He now edits the blog humblecomment.info

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