This is an excellent book with some very well-etched characters. There should be more books like these but unfortunately too many books these days are filled more with ‘telling’ than ‘showing’. This book however shows more and tells less.
Martin’s own suppressed thoughts and feelings are greatly described in this passage: “Martin was painfully aware of his free will. Still, he wasn’t ready to surrender. He had chosen the broadness of the streets over being confined in those brightly lit boxes of windows, looking down. Now his smug feelings had slowly turned to jealousy. He suddenly hated the working locals and carefree tourists, brushing Turnstiles by him cheerfully with their groceries and Harrods bags, for a different reason. They had something he didn’t have. They were free.”
I must say I did not like this Martin character much. Too many times he wallowed in self-pity and even acted effeminate; even as a rebel kid he didn’t seem to be quite illustrious. it looked as if the author was at times trying too hard to gain sympathy for him from the readers. On the other hand, Willis is someone for whom readers would automatically feel sympathy – his charity in the early pages of the book, in spite of being selfish, gives a tug at your heart. Despite being from an affluent family he’s plenty of personal and professional stress to battle with – not only his life’s been a cruddy one, his job of dealing with crime day in and day out as a defense attorney is also highly stressful; yet he tries hard (even though sometimes unsuccessfully) to maintain a brave and calm front. That is something very, very hard to do.
Characters such as Evelyn are rather commonplace, as unfortunate as it sounds, especially in a third world country (not sure about UK, however) – again a character which automatically gains your sympathy. Perhaps one reason why one can easily sympathize with Willis or Evelyn is that more or less the lifestyle these people lead are certainly not their own choice, whereas the lifestyle of Martin is wholly voluntary; Martin is actually kinda a confused kid suffering from a lack of sense of self (low self-esteem), with no aim or purpose in life.
There are plenty of passages in this book which are so eloquent and poetic that you would find it hard to take your eyes off them; I have already quoted one at the very top of this review, but there are so many more. I cannot recommend it enough to anyone who wants to read a well-written, realistic fiction with unlikable and somewhat weak characters.