Sometime when you read a book it will make you feel completely inadequate as a writer. That was how I felt after reading the first few chapters of Sarah Quigley’s new book, The Suicide Club. The characters are so beautifully drawn, the writing is alive with wonderful language and the plot has you on the edge of your chair. The reader is moved to tears and to laughter. What more could you ask for from a novel? Even the first line has you completely drawn into the story, “In the minutes before Bright O’Connor tumbled nineteen floors to his death…”
The Suicide Club begins by charting the lives of three individuals whose lives are thrown together and then interwoven by the twisting serpent of the plot. Bright is a red-haired, flamboyant young writer who throws himself off a twenty story building. Gibby is the ungainly young man who has left his newspaper cart at the foot of the same building so that he will unwittingly save Bright’s life. Lace is the beautiful young woman who everyone desires but no-one can reach. She is friends with Gibby and so will eventually encounter Bright when all three are propelled (for different reasons) to an experimental institution run by the enigmatic Dr Geoffrey in the remote countryside of Bavaria. They all have a lot to learn about each other but more about themselves and their inner motivations. The institution they attend for a few weeks allows us to unfold the depths of their psychoses and also allows them to encounter each other properly for the first time.
The Suicide Club is a great tale of psychosis and friendships, full of humour and beautifully written. The characters of Bright, Gibby and Lace are not a million miles for people we may have met at a party or in a university tutorial. It is their convincing reality that makes the novel work so well. And we are compelled to like them, to laugh at Bright’s clever jokes, to fall in love with Lace’s beautiful looks and to sympathise with Gibby’s awkwardness. All this makes The Suicide Club a million miles away from Sarah Quigley’s last novel, The Conductor, with its bleak setting in Second World War Leningrad, but it is no less brilliant or compelling.
Go and find a copy of The Suicide Club, insist that your local library has one put aside for you, and experience the perfect storm of good writing, great characters and brilliant plot. I can’t help feeling it is every bit as good as the sensation that was The Secret History by Donna Tartt, back in the 1990s.