Saturday, 3 March 2018


The Alarming Palsy of James Orr by Tom Lee  {Reviewed by STELLA}
This strange gem of a book will leave you laughing and unsettled. James Orr, successful project manager, father and husband, wakes one morning to find himself oddly changed. Something is amiss. The victim of Bell’s Palsy, he’s told nothing much can be done, that time will see him right. Unable to speak coherently and looking a little disturbing, he takes sick leave. Now he’s at home, confined to the idyllic New Glades Estate, a housing development of forty-eight identical homes surrounded by ancient woodland, with views over the woods and north to the city skyline, a neighbourhood committee and perfect for the model family. As James’s affliction lingers longer than expected he finds himself depressed and anxious. Work, a central part of his existence, carries on without him, with his projects farmed out to colleagues. His family is self-reliant: his wife not only carries on with her roles but picks up his as well as James sleeps through the days and is weirdly wired and wakeful at night. As the days go by, his behaviour becomes more erratic. He gets ousted from his chair role on the residents' committee and takes to wandering the paths of the woodland. His friends and neighbours treat him with either pity or suspicion. The novel is searingly funny, poking fun at the model urban lifestyle and the small power-plays of the neighbourhood hierarchy. But what is really wrong with James Orr? His marriage is already at a crisis point, his work is meaningless and his relationships with those around him superficial. At some point, he’s become redundant or the world has become something that moves around him. The former structure of his days is no longer relevant as he sees himself sidelined by his illness. From being a fully occupied member of his world he’s been pushed to the sidelines to the point at which he is looking in as though through an opaque glass. Tom Lee’s The Alarming Palsy of James Orr is a fascinating description of a man pushed aside by an affliction. Whether this is a purely physical or a psychological one, the reader will be the judge. Lee gives us a searing jolt in the final pages - one that will make you start reading again, looking through a different lens.  

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