It is a dismal day, dank, a sky like seed pearls, milky layers of grey, more opaque than Olivia’s eyes, dense with damp, the cold seeping into your bones like moisture trickling slowly downward on an overwatered plant, raising goosebumps on the flesh above them.
Quite a mouthful. Lunch: the original story of passion and submission, Karen Moline’s debut novel, oscillates between hard to digest and frustratingly under-seasoned. The story is that of superstar (cringe at the word) Nick Muncie’s ill-fated passion for portrait painter Olivia, told through the eyes of his sidekick, Major. Moline makes the odd decision to have Major narrate in pseudo-literary language, verging on stream-of-consciousness at times, a style which jars with his, admittedly shadowy, character. And herein lies the problem with Lunch: the three protagonists are too poorly defined to either pique the reader’s interest, or generate empathy. We crave some morsel of knowledge that might help us to better understand this enigmatic trio; instead, we get swathes of scene-setting description. Less lunch; more afternoon nap.
That having been said, there are occasional passages, many of them erotic, which, in turn, grip, unsettle, and move the reader. Nick and Olivia’s pillow talk affords us a tantalising glimpse into her romantic past; whilst the final horrific encounter of the book brings out the voyeur in all of us.
Moline, like Nick, is at her best when treading the fine line between pleasure and pain; between what is acceptable, and what is barbaric. It is a shame therefore that Lunch is light on such moments. My plea to Moline: stop dressing the mutton as lamb; slaughter more lambs.
To purchase Lunch: the original story of passion and submission on Amazon Kindle (£4.49) go here.