The Crack
Emma Tennant

Cover This is one of the strangest books I have ever read. It’s also very short, 112 pages, so you can read the entire thing in a couple of hours. It’s not a new book, it was first published in 1973, but it has a timeless quality about it. This book will still be enjoyable in another 25 years.

In the first chapter, 2 ˝ pages, Simon Mangrove decides to divorve his wife and marry Baba, the bunny at the Playboy club. In the second chapter, 5 pages, Simon is in a dodgem car crash which bursts into flame and kills him, leaving Baba without the love of her life. This gives you some idea of the pace at which this book moves, yet it never feels rushed. Emma has a brevity and precision of word use that is refreshing amongst the padded novels produced today.

The crack, of the title, is in the Thames. For no reason a yawning great chasm appears in the Thames and starts pushing the left and right banks apart. The story is told from the point of view of people stuck on one side of the crack and who need to get to the other side. They need to get to the other side as it has become paradise. The side where they are is all ruins and choas, yet the far side is now paradise. Huge buildings of immense beauty are built overnight and everbody (viewed through binoculars) seems to be at leisure and enjoying life to the fullest.

In this already surreal setting the characters populating the book are even more surreal. The is Medea the charismatic religious leader promising to lead all women from servitude to freedom on the other side. There are the mad property developers who see all the chaos around them as a golden opportunity to make a killing. They are the two psychoanolysts with their flock of adults who have all been regressed to children. There is Simon Mangrove’s wife who appears as an unstoppable robot waving legal papers around seeking all Simons wealth in their divorce. And there are a host of other characters as well. Baba the Playboy bunny, walks through all of this seeking love, with her bunny ears flopping.

This book does to literature what Dali did to art. It will not be to everyone’s liking, but if you like things on the surreal side of reality then this is a book for you. If you can find a copy, which may be difficult, I’d highly recommend spending the couple of hours necessary to read it.