Chapman’s Odyssey (Book Review)


Michael Bennett

Paul Bailey. Chapman’s Odyssey. London: Bloomsbury, 2011.

This book is well worth reading; it is in turn funny, witty and touching in places and tells a good story.

The narrative is set in a hospital ward as an older gay man, Harry Chapman, hears ‘many voices’ and recalls memories from his life. Whilst he awaits surgery/investigations, the detailed and rich drama of recollections happens over a period of days nearly a week, but spanning all of Harry’s life! The voices are from his past plus a few historical surprises too! Paul Bailey is a master with words, so much so that by the end of reading this book you know Harry‘s character and his response to a lifetime of pain and pleasure.

I did wonder at one time if Harry was a stereotyped gay man – very arty, cultured and a writer of some sorts, but on the whole he is likeable for what he is .

The ending was a surprise to this reviewer, but I agree with Ali Smith who has some blurb on the back cover: ‘I love this beautiful book’.