Book review – “The sound of my voice” by Ron Butlin

“The sound of my voice” by Ron Butlin (1987), Fiction, 143 pages

The edition below was published in 1994 by Black Ace Books (ISBN 1-872988-16-4). It includes an introduction by Randall Stevenson.

The sound of my voice - Ron Butlin
“The sound of my voice” by Ron Butlin

This is the story of 34-year-old Morris Magellan, married with two children.

With a loving family and a successful job as an executive in a biscuit factory, he seems to have everything going for him. Unfortunately, he also has an addiction to alcohol which is on the verge of destroying all he has.

The tale is unusually told in the second person ‘you’ form, which made me feel almost as if I was inside Magellan’s head.

‘You are thirty-four years old and already two-thirds destroyed. When your friends and business colleagues meet you they shake your hand and say, “Hello, Morris.” You reply, “Hello,” usually smiling. At home your wife and children – your accusations, as you call them – love you and need you. You know all this, and know that it is not enough.’

Ron Butlin manages to keep up this style of writing throughout the entire novel, which seems quite an achievement.

As I followed Magellan through his ups and downs, I felt I understood his warped view of himself. His periods of elation made me smile and I had a sense of sympathy for his self-deception. In this respect, Ron Butlin has done a wonderful job of engaging the reader with his protagonist.

When I was into the last quarter of the book I began to wonder how the author would manage to draw a close to the story. It seemed there was only one way it could go. Endings are the bits I always find the most difficult in my own literary attempts, but Butlin made it look easy. I found the ending very satisfying and it left me with an uplifting feeling of hope.

Many thanks to Ruth Orr, for so enthusiastically recommending this book and lending me her copy to read.

 

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14 Comments

    1. Thanks, Darlene. I don’t experience it that often but it’s a great feeling when you’re writing a story and you know you’ve got a really good ending. I believe some people start by writing the ending, which kind of makes sense to me.

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  1. Sounds interesting 🙂 Have you ever read Billy Liar? It’s another old one. Not sure it’s the saem POV, but I think you’ve made me think of it because it ends with hope too. Or I think it does 🙂 I could lend you my copy if you like 🙂

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    1. I haven’t read that, although I’ve heard of it through the film of the same name. Thanks for the offer to lend me your copy. 🙂 I just checked my local library catalogue online and they apparently have a copy so I’ll have a look for it next time I’m in.

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    1. I’m sure I wouldn’t have read it if I hadn’t had a copy lent to me. Apparently Ron Butlin has long been an unsung Scottish writing hero, so it’s good that he’s becoming more well known. This book wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea but I think there’s no denying it’s very skillfully written.

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  2. I’ve never read a book in the second person, Lorna – writing in that style must be an accomplishment in itself, and I can easily see how you can get into the mindset of the writer – you’re listening to the sound of the author’s voice talking to himself, but at what stage does it feel like your own?! I would probably run away at that point! So well done for tackling this because it sounds like a difficult read in places.

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    1. Thanks, Jo. I had never read a book written in this style either, and I must admit I didn’t take to it immediately. As the book went on, however, I became engrossed in the main character’s story and the style enhanced that experience. It never felt to me as if it was my own voice, no doubt due to Ron Butlin’s expertise. I shouldn’t think there are many writers who would either dare to tackle this style or make such a good job of it.

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    1. That’s interesting to hear, Hilary. I’ve never tried to write anything in the second person but maybe I’ll have a bash at it. I certainly can’t imagine being able to write an entire novel in that style. Hats off to Mr Butlin.

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