Ordinary Thunderstorms by William Boyd

bookshelves: published-2009, paper-read, one-penny-wonder, hardback, britain-england, london, summer-2015

Read from April 16 to July 10, 2015
Description: It is May in Chelsea, London. The glittering river is unusually high on an otherwise ordinary afternoon. Adam Kindred, a young climatologist in town for a job interview, ambles along the Embankment, admiring the view. He is pleasantly surprised to come across a little Italian bistro down a leafy side street. During his meal he strikes up a conversation with a solitary diner at the next table, who leaves soon afterwards. With horrifying speed, this chance encounter leads to a series of malign accidents through which Adam will lose everything – home, family, friends, job, reputation, passport, credit cards, mobile phone – never to get them back. The police are searching for him. There is a reward for his capture. A hired killer is stalking him. He is alone and anonymous in a huge, pitiless modern city. Adam has nowhere to go but down – underground. He decides to join that vast army of the disappeared and the missing that throng London’s lowest levels as he tries to figure out what to do with his life and struggles to understand the forces that have made it unravel so spectacularly. His quest will take him all along the River Thames, from affluent Chelsea to the sink estates of the East End, and on the way he will encounter all manner of London’s denizens – aristocrats, prostitutes, evangelists and policewomen amongst them – and version after new version of himself. William Boyd’s electric follow-up to Costa Novel of the Year Restless is a heart-in-mouth conspiracy novel about the fragility of social identity, the corruption at the heart of big business, and the secrets that lie hidden in the filthy underbelly of everyday city.

Opening: LET US START WITH the river – all things begin with the river and we shall probably end there, no doubt – but let us wait and see how we go. Soon, in a minute or two, a young man will come and stand by the river’s edge, here at Chelsea Bridge, in London.

What better book to crack open in an storm where our leccy supply is decidedly on/off, and big print is best under torch light. We have flood warnings too.

Gleick’s Chaos theory started with a ‘hands behind the head and whimsy alot in the grass on a hill, looking up’ view of the clouds, do you remember that? There is a lot of chaos going on here, and also a lot of ‘fate’ and ‘predestination’ a la Buddhism credo.

This book has the opening quote:

Ordinary thunderstorms have the capacity to transform themselves into multi-cell storms of growing complexity. Such multi-cell storms display marked increase in severity and their lifetime can be extended by a factor of ten or more. The grandfather of all thunderstorms, however, is the super-cell thunderstorm. It should be noted that even ordinary thunderstorms are capable of mutating into super-cell storms. These storms subside very slowly.
‘Storm Dynamics and Hail Cascades’
by LD Sax and WS Dutton

I was in Boyd’s thrall whilst reading ‘Ordinary Thunderstorms’ and was impatient to know if all the strands could be joined by the end and they were… just, by the skin of their teeth.

Read in one sitting because I just couldn’t put this book down, yet there are some sections that are flawed. For instance, were the initial behaviours the actions of a sane man or did Boyd wish to inflict us with the fatalism of The Dice Man for his main character.

You can see why I couldn’t award that final star, as much as this entertained.

LATER (upon the good ship dilemma) – many reviews state that it is well known that no-one should touch a murder weapon therefore this tale lacks credibility, yet Dr Wang was not dead when he pleaded for the knife to be removed: what would you have done?

5* Any Human Heart
4* Restless
TR Waiting for Sunrise
4* Ordinary Thunderstorms
4* Brazzaville Beach
2* Solo
3* Armadillo
WL Sweet Caress
3* A Haunting


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