"Easily the most brilliant fiction I've seen this year -- it proves the potential brilliance of the novel form."
-- John Fowles, author of The Magus
Observatory Mansions, once the Orme family's magnificent ancestral home set on beautiful grounds, is now a crumbling apartment block stranded on a traffic island, peopled with eccentrics.
Thirty-seven-year-old Francis Orme lives in Observatory Mansions with his peculiar parents and a collection of misfits. By day he is a street performer, earning money as "a statue of whiteness" in the park, wearing white gloves to ensure that his skin never touches anything. He steals items for his museum of significant objects (996 in all), not for their monetary value but because they have been loved, often bringing grief to their erstwhile owners. His bedridden mother, Alice, who has created for herself an alternative time frame called "fiction," and his father, Francis, are among the occupants set apart from the rest of the busy city by their histories, their memories, and their relationships with the other seven inhabitants of the flats.
Each of the house dwellers has his or her own story, as seen through Francis's eyes, and the careful routine and harmony of the house are shaken when along comes a new resident, the half-blind, vulnerable Anna Tap. She is sympathetic and resourceful, and slowly the desperately lonely residents begin to open up their long-closed hearts. As the delicate balance of Observatory Mansions begins to shift, Francis finds himself having to protect the secrets of his past and the sanctity of his collection, while growing emotionally closer to Anna.
Hailed as no less than a tour de force, Observatory Mansions is a debut novel of immense originality--a strangely haunting landscape occupied by compelling and unforgettable characters.
Playwright and freelance illustrator Carey's impressive first novel is so steeped in grotesque oddity, warped values and dysfunction that it makes David Lynch's work seem sunny and salubrious by comparison. Veering only occasionally toward painfully obvious symbolism, Carey's debut is a darkly idiosyncratic, sharply observed study of lonely men and women stranded on the bleakest periphery of conventional human intercourse. Narrator Francis Orme maintains a hidden "museum" comprising solely worthless objects pilfered from unsuspecting friends, relatives and strangers. The scion of a once-wealthy clan, Francis is a reclusive 37-year-old who makes his living impersonating public statuary. He wears spotless white gloves at all times and lives with his elderly, semicomatose parents in an unnamed city in an apartment complex called Observatory Mansions, housed in what was once the Orme family mansion. Francis's fellow tenants are hardly less eccentric. There's Peter Bugg, a retired pedagogue who can't seem to stop crying or perspiring; Claire Higg, a dowdy dowager with an all-consuming penchant for soap operas; and Twenty (so called because she lives in flat number 20), a bedraggled migr from an unspecified nation who believes that she's a dog. The inhabitants of Observatory Mansions may not be the happiest of people, but they've come to feel secure in their unflagging misery and in their rigid adherence to mindless routine. Secure, that is, until the arrival of Anna Tap, a feisty, fiercely optimistic new tenant who challenges their ossified notions of self, community and social interaction. Carey's precise, deadpan prose is a delight, effectively filtering the story's bizarre twists through his protagonist's equally oddball sensibilities. Francis Orme emerges as a memorable, even winningly demented narrator. His slow progression from alienation and anomie toward a more functional, openhearted worldview makes for an absorbing, unconventional, seriocomic odyssey.