If someone were to ask Bernard Beckett why his book August was so easy to read, he’d likely quote Hemingway and say “because it was so hard to write.” Inside this philosophical melodrama is a massive challenging of ideas that most people take for granted, ideas such as freewill. It is also part love story.
Suspended upside down on the roadside, injured and unable to move, are a young man and woman. (Right away there are no lingering questions as to the relevance of the book’s cover.) Tristan, the driver, is a young philosopher who has been struggling with the issue of freewill. Next to him is Grace, a prostitute who had been picked up a few hours earlier. From the start it is touch and go for both characters.
Despite their horrific injuries, both characters decide to fight for their lives and start sharing their stories with each other. Tristan came from austere conditions and worked hard to get an education at a Catholic school. There, he meets the rector who completely challenges his view on freewill and decision-making. Grace’s story is one that sees her rise early and then fall later on.
Bernard Beckett’s writing style is brilliant. To draw readers in fast there’s an intense aura of nervousness within chapter one, gradually slowing down to tell both characters stories before intensifying once again in the last chapters. It was enjoyable to see conventional wisdom challenged to the utmost, so be prepared to think.
On multiple occasions both Tristan and Grace feel completely trapped inside their own minds, unable to comprehend if their decisions were made as a result of freewill, or if other driving forces were behind it. August is well polished, well timed and well worth reading.