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The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - BOOKS REVIEWS -

DAPHNE WILL BOAST Granta, £12.99

In Ovid’s Me­ta­mor­phoses Cupid pun­ishes Apollo by mak­ing him fall in love with the nymph Daphne, who has sworn her­self to life­long vir­gin­ity. Be­ing chased by Apollo, Daphne cries out to her fa­ther for help and is turned on the spot into a lau­rel tree. The epony­mous pro­tag­o­nist of Will Boast’s de­but novel, Daphne, echo­ing her myth­i­cal coun­ter­part, suf­fers paral­y­sis when she ex­pe­ri­ences in­tense emo­tion. A ro­mance, a com­edy, a wide-rang­ing ex­plo­ration of con­trary im­pulses – the need to feel, and the fear of feel­ing – Boast’s novel is wry and witty, ten­der and weird. Although its San Fran­cisco cool­ness can feel over­done, the book ex­pands be­yond easy ro­mance into a po­lit­i­cal ex­plo­ration of the ne­ces­sity of em­pa­thy, and the toll em­pa­thy can take. Daphne is at once a fa­ble and a beau­ti­fully en­gaged re­flec­tion on love. It is strange and heart-warm­ing in equal mea­sure. SEÁN HE­WITT

MUR­MUR WILL EAVES CB Edi­tions, £8.99

In­spired by the life of Alan Tur­ing, the sec­ond World War code-breaker who was im­pris­oned and chem­i­cally cas­trated by the Bri­tish state in the 1950s, Will Eaves’s lat­est novel tells of Alec, a gay math­e­ma­ti­cian who is con­victed of gross in­de­cency and com­pelled to un­dergo “treat­ment”. Mur­mur al­ter­nates be­tween first-per­son nar­ra­tion and epis­to­lary ex­changes; the prose is ex­cep­tion­ally poised and el­e­gant. Peer­ing into a school class­room, Eaves’s pro­tag­o­nist ob­serves: “The thirty lives in this cold room, seen from some dis­tant van­tage point, are like the hope­ful lanterns of a strug­gling ferry.” Mur­mur is a poignant med­i­ta­tion on the ir­re­press­ible com­plex­ity of hu­man na­ture and sex­u­al­ity, and a pow­er­ful in­dict­ment of the cow­ardice and group­think that sus­tain state-sanc­tioned bar­barism. It also poses timely ques­tions about the dig­i­tal world Tur­ing’s pi­o­neer­ing work helped bring about, as Alec pon­ders the “wel­ter of connectedness, the phones and mes­sages, com­muters trail­ing wires, star­ing past bod­ies into space”. HOUMANBAREKAT

SURGE ETEL AD­NAN Night­boat Books, £12

Surge, as the ti­tle sug­gests, is a book awash in move­ment: the move­ment of mind, of time and of mem­ory. It presents an old poet at home, at night, rov­ing through her rec­ol­lec­tions of dead or dy­ing friends, land­scapes passed through or lost. She muses on un­re­solv­able ideas that have flick­ered at the edge of per­cep­tion for count­less sleep­less nights. “The mind acts as a re­volv­ing lamp that projects it­self on it­self too, and on this and that,” she says, and this bright, prob­ing book is a record of its turn­ing. Again and again Etel Ad­nan po­si­tions her­self within dark­ness – within “night”, “the largest of all oceans”. She holds a po­si­tion she de­scribes as the “pride of not-know­ing, the breath­ing space”. As if it were only from the dark that light could be ap­pre­hended, as if only from a place of blind­ness could imag­i­na­tion con­nect us to the world. As if only from there could the mind fo­cus, at last, on it­self. “But where’s my soul?” she asks, and an­swers: “only in the ques­tion”. IANMALENEY

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