I’m too young to be personally familiar with the heady, turn-of-the-millennium setting of Light, but it’s enjoyable enough to reminisce about things I can just remember – genuinely down-at-heel pubs, the Eurostar leaving from Waterloo – and trace the way things have changed and the recent origins of things which now seem assumed and enshrined.
The description of East and West London and the way they intersect in the art world is abstract but profoundly evocative, however rapidly East London is becoming unaffordable in our present. The sardonic criticism of the swish, fast-moving and unobtainable West and the way it “slums over” to the East in search of “authentic” art will resonate with and amuse anyone whose visits to the capital are fleeting, who engages with it as an interloper.
Humour is a strength of this novella, underpinning descriptions, interactions and events. Larger-than-life characters spill out of the glass towers into bistros, galleries, barns and fields, to be dismantled at a distance in the self-centred voice of the jaded narrator, Ben. Beyond humour, Taylor is a creative prose writer in the best sense, using a broad spectrum of detail, from sparse to decadent, to relate, reflect and characterise.
In the best traditions of the form, the story gains pace like a piano rolling down a hill. Disparate strands clunk into place in a finale which only once you have read it seems all too horrifyingly predictable.
I would argue that there are different ways to read Light. I certainly enjoyed it as a critical and meta-textual examination of art in different forms, including prose, an opinion which would doubtless earn me the derision of its narrator. It’s a funny old world.
Rob Jones studied English with Creative Writing options at the University of Leicester and completed an MA in Victorian Studies there. He lives in Sileby with his wife, sings with Leicester University Chamber Choir and dreams of working in heritage.