Nicholas Jose has taken a new turn in his latest novel, Original Face, to be launched next Wednesday. I am invited. The reviews so far are all good: The Australian yesterday, and Andrew Riemer in The Sydney Morning Herald.
That smug bloke who found writing thrillers a piece of cake probably had not thought beyond complicated plots and vivid, sinister and sexy characters. Jose delivers all these necessary things in good measure. But his book does something even more interesting, to my mind. In the final count, this a highly literary thriller, in the best sense of the term. Jose exploits every opportunity to extend the boundaries of what can be, with some practitioners, a constricting form.
Original Face contains some striking evocations of Sydney landmarks and rituals: the Anzac Bridge towering over the city; the lush scents of a summer night around Centennial Park; a down-at-heel housing project on the outskirts of the city; the glitter of crystal chandeliers in a cavernous Chinatown restaurant.
It is also something of a roman a clef with a clutch of recognisable Sydney identities flitting across its pages. But, above all, this highly accomplished novel is distinguished by its generous (and, for me, fascinating) engagement with various aspects of Chinese life and culture. This is where Jose’s expertise pays handsome dividends, especially when he weaves some elements of Buddhism – including the source of the novel’s title – into the fabric of his intricate tale… Original Face is that unusual thing: a page-turner that you can read again with undiminished pleasure.
Nick is one of M’s oldest friends; they knew each other in China well before and up to Tiananmen time; indeed, speaking of romans-a-clef, bits of M appear quite clearly in Nick’s earlier novel Avenue of Eternal Peace. I wonder if I should read the new one carefully to see if any bits of me are in there, but I really doubt that 😉 Be interesting to see if I can recognise anyone though.