Saturday 31 October 2009

Eleven by David Llewellyn: Review

By David Llewellyn
Published by Seren
Published in 2006

It's another day at work. Uninspired and wondering for the 67th time this week why on earth you are still in this job, you stare with glazed eyes at the emails pinging up on your screen. Mindless chatter, forwarded jokes, yet another blithering email from head office about appropriate use of the lunchroom dishwasher...

This is Martin Davies' life. He's a wannabe screenwriter stuck in a finance office in Cardiff, Wales. It's just another mind-numbing day at the office... except it isn't.

Today is September 11th, 2001.

Eleven is one of many books that have been written about and around the events of September 11th - a growing genre of literature called "Post 9/11 literature" about which I am writing my Masters thesis next year. Overall, this was an interesting book, the most unique thing about it being the way it is written. The narrative is presented through the emails that are coming into Martin's inbox as well as his replies. His thoughts are drafts that are saved but never sent. The placement of the events of another ordinary day against the backdrop of the unravelling of the one of the most historically significant events in recent history serves as a poignant reminder to all who remember this day just how it felt and "where were you when".

The atmosphere of this novel is ultimately depressing as we observe Martin's sanity unravelling thread by thread. It's unclear whether this unravelling is triggered by the events of 9/11 but I'd say it was safe to assume it is. Obvious other contributing factors include his failed relationship, his loathing of his job and position in life but this event seems to tip the balance. The novel ends ambiguously, and kind of unsatisfactorily. There isn't the typical crisis and resolution - 9/11 happens but nobody seems knows what it means or how to react to it. Then again - those who lived through that day know that this is pretty much exactly how it was all over the world: people staring at the TV in astonishment, completely lost for words.

I'm not sure if this will be useful for my thesis, but it was an interesting and quick read. As a representation of the events of 9/11 I think it does very well to capture the confusion and disbelief everyone felt. It doesn't pretend to have anything meaningful to say about what happened or try to explain it. It simply offers a snapshot of the day, from the other side of the globe, through the eyes of Joe Normal. A slice of history, happening in your inbox.

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