Set in nineties Rome, Surviving tells the story of a group of English-speaking ex-patriot alcoholics whose fragile existences are kept together by a network of friendships. This book has been widely reviewed and always appreciated for its depth, simplicity, economy of language and understanding.
Like The Death of Men, one of Massie's great novels, Surviving is set in contemporary Rome. The main characters, Belinda (the heroine of the Massie's second novel, The Last Peacock), Kate, an author who specialises in studies of the criminal mind, and Tom Durward, a scriptwriter, attend an English-speaking group of Alcoholics Anonymous. All have pasts to cause embarrassment or shame. Tom sees no future for himself and still gets nervous "come Martini time". Belinda embarks on a love-affair that cannot last. Kate ventures onto more dangerous ground by inviting her latest case-study, a young Londoner acquitted of a racist murder, to stay with her. There is another murder, but this is not a murder mystery. What matters is the responses of the characters to the catastrophe. The atmosphere of Rome is lovingly evoked. The dialogue, in which the characters reveal themselves or seek to avoid doing so, is sharp and edgy. Allan Massie dissects this group of ex-pats in order to say something about our inability to know, still less to understand, the actions of our fellow human beings, even when relationships are so intense. It is also, therefore, impossible or at least difficult to make informed moral judgements of others. This is an intelligent book that examines human nature with a deft and light touch.
"... an impressive novel which poses moral and philosophical questions but works equally well as a compelling thriller." - Joe Farrell in TLS "Massie is one of the best Scottish writers of his generation. Surviving - sympathetic, unsentimental, atmospheric - is an overdue reminder of how good he is." - Alan Taylor in The Herald "The dark brilliance of Massie's style ... Surviving may be an instant classic in the alcoholic literary canon." - Patrick Skene Catling in The Spectator "... an excellent little novel." - Ben Jeffery in The Guardian "This is Scotland's Stendhal at his best: clipped but sympathetic to this fragile characters in their haunted world." - Christopher Harvie in The Sunday Herald
About Allan Massie
Allan Massie is the author of twenty novels and a dozen non-fiction works. His six novels about the Roman Empire have been widely translated, and have been particularly successful in Brazil. Gore Vidal has defined him as a "master of the long-ago historical novel". His twentieth century novels have been compared by French critics to Balzac and Stendhal, by Muriel Spark to Thomas Mann, and by others to Evelyn Waugh. He thinks such comparisons as pleasing as they are ridiculously exaggerated. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, and has been given an honorary doctorate by Strathclyde University.
Surviving by Allan Massie
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