The everyman hero of Ordinary Thunderstorms, William Boyd’s new novel, is a climatologist, Adam Kindred. An American in London, who with a simple twist of fate loses every semblance of his life when he is forced to go on the run. The novel’s title comes from his specialist subject: "Ordinary thunderstorms have the capacity to transform themselves into multi-cell storms of ever growing complexity.... It should be noted that even ordinary thunderstorms are capable of mutating into super-cell storms. These storms subside very slowly."
The germ of the novel was an article in The Guardian highlighting the 50 to 60 bodies pulled from the Thames every year. “It’s more than one a week,” observes Boyd gently. “I mean, who are these dead people?” Adam’s tragedy, too, on the run from his own life, is similarly unremarked on, the kind of “ordinary” calamity that the great pulsing city of London can safely ignore.
“If you are going to write a novel that’s over 300, 350 pages, I sort of feel you’re obliged to provide that element of suspense or compulsion to read on.”
The novel’s cast of characters spans the boardrooms of the City, the coked-up dining tables of Notting Hill to the most frightening estates around the Isle of Dogs. Adam finds himself in the homes and beds of drug addicts and £50 hookers: people thrown about, like him, by life’s storms. By letting go of his phone, his credit cards and his name, he too can join the ranks of the habitually peripheral, like Icarus, falling to his death, ignored, in Auden’s poem.
- Olivia Cole, The Book Beast
Read the rest of the interview here.