Posted 20 hours ago

Metronome: The 'unputdownable' BBC Two Between the Covers Book Club Pick

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For a novel depicting twelve years’ isolation for two people on an island, it can read like a veritable a-z of underlying themes such as: adversity, attraction, challenge, climate change, communication, companionship, construction, control, death, destruction, determination, distraction, distance, equality, existence, family, fear, health, human hunger, intimacy, lies, love, oppression, pleasure, pressure, rebellion, relationships, revenge, sacrifice, safety, scams, secrets, solitude, synchronicity, time, etc. And finally, what advice would you give to anyone thinking of entering the Caledonia Novel Award 2023? Survival on ‘The Limits ’ is key, based on 8-hourly pills from a timed clock dispensary that inadvertently tether them both to the island, to each other, their quest for freedom, and what they do to achieve it. And while this helps with the suffocating atmosphere at the very bleak end you're left with little understanding or resolution. Taut, unsettling and so completely charged with both tension and emotion, I found myself captivated by Metronome .

The book is all very mysterious and there is little explanation into why permission was required to have children or what is currently going on preventing the warden from turning up. Tom Watson is a graduate of the Creative Writing MA at the University of East Anglia, where he was the recipient of the Curtis Brown Prize in memory of Giles Gordon. The elegant cover was what drew me to the book, and it was such an engaging and, at times, challenging piece of speculative fiction. However, I would have appreciated more details about the outside world and what events lead to their situation going dark.His debut novel, Metronome, was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize, and his short fiction has been shortlisted for the Bristol Short Story Prize and awarded runner-up for the Seán Ó Faoláin Prize. When their crime is discovered they become social outcasts, condemned to serve a 12-year sentence of exile on a remote island in the north. Aina starts to question whether Whitney has been telling the whole truth and as she plans her escape she reflects on the chapter of her life that led to being exiled.

According to Wille, fire speeds things up for example, water slows things down; air gives focus and earth opens out. Except we do not know if she is alone, what lunch consisted of, what kind of dishes they are and how many, where the sink is, where she is, or what happened before. You can imagine the type of devastation on The Limits, after which everything is off kilter; is this dystopia meeting reality? Tom Watson skilfully creates a claustrophobic atmosphere, not only in the tiny croft itself but in this bleak, harsh, lonely existence Whitney and Aina are sentenced to indefinitely. These won’t be for everyone, but in terms of how they both managed family and writing while juggling a host of other commitments, they both gave me real impetus.

But when there is more confirmation that they are not alone, the stage is set for a confrontation and an acknowledgement of betrayal and even death. Just too many unanswered questions which is in my defence just as bad as too tidy an ending which I’ve complained about in many other of my reviews. He keeps us guessing as to whether one of the two is perhaps insane, what their underlying motives might be, and in the end, whether redemption is possible. What my proof copy didn’t tell me is that Metronome is featured in the next BBC2 ‘Between The Covers’ series.

The two central characters are compelling, if not overly so - I took a long while to connect with them, to be honest, and their frayed relationship.

She is desperate to learn the fate of their son, Max, and fears her husband may be keeping this knowledge to himself. Their punishment is made harder by the fact that toxic spores from the melting permafrost have been released into the atmosphere; anyone spending time in that part of the world must take prophylactic pills at eight-hour intervals to stay alive. The story is set at the end of their 12 years and they are awaiting parole, which doesn't seem to be coming. Punished for the crime of having an unauthorised child, Aina and Whitney are banished to an island and tethered to a pill dispenser which keeps them alive.

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