In all honesty, I was dubious about this book from the start. While Tim Wilson certainly wins points for creativity in the presentation of his novel, The Straight Banana as a whole, missed the mark for me, despite the potential for it to work. Even as ridiculous as the plot seemed initially (which it certainly delivered on) it could’ve been a comedic, fictional spin on real world events, highlighting the ridiculousness of how the world can at times be. But instead it was a confusing plot with vague and unclear motives.
The ‘hero’ of the story is Thomas Tudehope Milde; a stereotypical character of this sort of genre – having potential, never really achieving it, making poor decisions, an underdog, or as described throughout the novel an ‘Omega’ as opposed to an ‘Alpha’. Milde is a somewhat irritating character largely due to his lack of sobriety throughout the novel, which in itself does seem to be accurate in how being under the influence of some sort of substance would be, yet it is frustrating because of how incoherent the writing becomes, apparently to give insight into the mind of Thomas Milde. Of course being the central focus of the novel, you find yourself wanting him to succeed but his personality and choices mean this doesn’t appear to be a highly likely outcome, which as a reader left me feeling disappointed in the character and frustrated by his foolishness. His situation seems so hopeless that it leaves you disheartened and wanting to re-write his story for a better set of circumstances.
I did find The Straight Banana engaging at times, when the plot and point was realized a bit more and when it felt like it was heading in some direction. At these points I felt like I couldn’t put the book down and I needed to know what would happen to the washed up foreign news correspondent that is Thomas Milde. However, these times where more often then not interrupted by the disorganized nature of the novel. It would migrate from an orderly and conventional novel to a jumpy thought process that was supposed to be Thomas Milde’s, yet still in the third person narration that made up the rest of the novel. It was hard to follow and I found myself having to go back several times to try and piece together what the subject at hand was, making the whole thing disjointed and as a result, unengaging.
Of course, it is entirely possible that this will appeal to those who would view Tim Wilson’s new novel as an interesting way of writing that should be explored more. It is also plausible that this book would have been a lot more engaging had I read Tim Wilson’s previous novel featuring Thomas Milde; News Pigs. It may have provided enough background to have an attachment to Milde himself and also enough context to The Straight Banana to have properly enjoyed it.
Reviewed by Sarah Hayward
The Straight Banana
by Tim Wilson
Published by VUP