Cannonball Read #52: Ordinary Thunderstorms06/02/2010
Ordinary Thunderstorms by William Boyd touched on a lot of different topics: the cutthroat pharmaceutical field, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, hiding from society, adultery, family and the setting of London. A lot was packed into the novel, but it was fast paced and intriguing.
Adam Kindred is a climatologist applying for a job back in London after being let go from his American university position for “gross moral turpitude” after having an affair with a student. After his interview, he has dinner alone and strikes up a brief conversation with a diner at another table. The other guy leaves, and Adam notices he’s left a file at the table. Adam takes the file and calls the other man – they arrange to meet up so Adam can return it.
And what do you think happens next? I’ll give you one guess… you got it, Adam walks in and the other guy has been stabbed and is dying. He can’t get any words out to Adam before the killer starts coming back into the room, so Adam runs.
The rest of the novel follows several threads: Adam, who drops out of society to society’s impoverished and homeless world; the killer who is searching for him; executives at the highest level of the pharmaceutical company that employed the dead man; and a MP on the River Thames to name a few. The story is very layered and detailed, and it comes together in a strange way at the end.
It just proved to him what he had always suspected: that the myriad connections between two discrete lives — close, distant, overlapping, tangential– lie there almost entirely unknown, unobserved, a great unseen network of the nearly, the almost, the might-have-been. From time to time in everybody’s life, the network is glimpsed for a moment or two and the occasion acknowledged with a gasp of happy astonishment or a shiver of supernatural discomfort. The complex interrelatedness of human existence could reassure or disturb in equal measure.
I was looking for something light and fast paced when I picked this up, but this was no cheap novel. Ordinary Thunderstorms has a lot to say about how members of society function at all levels, how families relate to each other, how easily someone can slip through the cracks and be lost – willingly or unwillingly, and the connections we can make and lose so easily.