I've copied Ulysses' lovely words below.
What if you fell in love with your guardian angel? This is the odd premise of Liam Livings’ new novel, and the answer to the question is surprisingly poignant. Richard and Amy are two just-out-of-university friends trying to make their way into adulthood in London. Amy is dodging her innate love of science by working in an archaic music store; and Richard is avoiding his yearning for a real relationship with constant meaningless hookups. Significantly, their relationship is one of the few straightforward, affirming things in Richard’s life.
“Guardian Angel” has a sense of great, meandering intimacy about it. It is ultimately a romance, but by a route that is more about its protagonist’s psychological journey than about the romance itself. The actual guardian angel, Sky, is an elusive presence for most of the book, and yet he looms very large emotionally. By contrast, Amy is nearly as important a character in the story as Richard himself, and yet Livings manages to make her presence feel secondary, however essential she may be. Don’t get me wrong: Amy is wonderful and appealing, but Livings has made her role a supporting one, literally and literarily. She is more than a Greek chorus; she is Richard’s sounding board and wise advisor. Her own uncomplicated neuroses and warm spirit stand in contrast with Richard’s darker aspects. On the other hand, he is as good a friend to her as she to him.
The story is written with a lighthearted tone, combined with an emotional flatness that is calculated and at times puzzling. There are truly harrowing moments in Richard’s life, but Livings presents them through Richard’s eyes almost casually. The very lack of strong emotion in the narration is, I think, representative of Richard’s quiet despair; and the aimlessness of the plot echoes Richard’s emotional detachment from his own life. It is not a story about a psychotic young man, but there is a kind of gentle, anguished madness mingled in with all the offhand humor and mundane details of Richard’s day to day existence.
When the character of Bobby is introduced, I was confused by the lack of emotional affect in the writing; but that turned out to be a clever ploy on the part of the author. There are few significant characters in the book, and they are always referred to only by first names. From Richard’s mother Jean two his two bosses in the course of the book, Charles and then John, these characters’ roles in his life are delineated sparely, but with sharp, decisive strokes that make them oddly vivid for such minor roles in what is not a short book. Livings defines these background players by what they do relative to Richard’s life, and that is enough to make their importance in the drama stand out.
“Guardian Angel” is a surprising novel, its magical aspect carefully balanced by the blunt realism of most of the actual story. Like all of Liam Livings’ novels so far, it seems to tap into a very deep yearning on the part of young people today for a life that is meaningful and emotionally fulfilling. The difficulty in achieving such a life is, I suspect, at the core of Livings’ success as a storyteller.
The Guardian Angel on Goodreads
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