x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

The Death of Eli Gold: Surprising and entertaining

Despite the often thin caricatures he conjures, David Baddiel delivers a solid novel about the fiinal days of Eli Gold, "America's greatest living writer".

The Death of Eli Gold, David Baddiel, Fourth Estate, Dh113
The Death of Eli Gold, David Baddiel, Fourth Estate, Dh113

Eli Gold, the titular character of David Baddiel's fourth novel, is dying. Widely regarded as "America's greatest living writer", Gold's family are gathering by his New York hospital bedside as this 85-year-old colossus of the American literary world (think the late Saul Bellow meets Philip Roth) slips slowly away.

The book is narrated by four characters from Gold's complicated family history: Harvey, Eli's 44-year-old son from his second marriage; Violet, the author's first wife, who watches attentively from the distance of the residential care home in England to which she is now confined; Colette, his eight-year-old daughter from his current marriage and, finally, the Mormon brother of Eli's previous wife, who perished in a suicide pact the great man survived.

All but Harvey, a character stuck in the middle years of both his inconsequential life and his unsatisfying marriage, feel hastily drawn. Perhaps this is because the author naturally has more empathy with Harvey than the rest of his cast - Baddiel celebrates his own 47th birthday this month. Despite the often thin caricatures he conjures, Baddiel delivers a surprising and entertaining novel.