The Invisible Rider
Kirsten McDougall, Victoria University Press ($30)
The Invisible Rider is a novel about a lawyer, father and husband residing docilely in his local community who begins to observe disquiet in the finely-drawn lines in his life; in his friends happiness, his marriage, his children’s increasing awareness of the world around them. The people in his life that have skirted around on the periphery for so many years begin to move sharply into focus – a grocer, his neighbours, the parents of other children that his play with – as his humanity is called into question.
Philip Fetch as a character constantly surprised me and I found myself wondering how he could be so consistent yet still vary so much in his thought and process. I don’t know if it can be put on the act of transitioning into a new phase in his life or not. There was tangible change in the novel. Almost every facet of Philip’s life was changing from what it had been, as if each part of his life he examined stepped to the left two metres when he last turned his back. He encounters a friend’s suicide, his child’s life at risk in a zoo enclosure, an outburst he barely knew he had in him (twice!) over two social occasions and an unexpected breakdown in front of his wife one night when they quietly talk as the children sleep. Finally, a heart attack. Philip seems to go through each of the things that would shake your average citizen in quiet observance, while changing inside in ways that are only fully realised in acceptance.
I am babbling, trying to sum up the best parts of a novel that I didn’t want to stop reading. The truth is I just really enjoyed this in ways that I can’t simplify. I especially enjoyed the pace and structure, which gave evidence that one can pack an awful lot of story into such a small book. The fable-esque quality of the writing keeps the temporal progression of the novel steadily in control of the main character, but that’s fine because the relateable Philip Fetch seems to have careened through life at the same speed that most of us do.
Matt Bialostocki, Unity Books Wellington