Sunday, March 11, 2012

Wild Abandon by Joe Dunthorne

I may be biased about this book as it is based very close to my former Welsh home and the areas described could well be where my brother is currently living. Certainly the ‘old hippy’ labels that could so easily be applied to the family represented in the book could be stuck on to many people in rural Wales. In fact rural Wales seems to attract its fair share of eccentrics running away from the strains and stresses of city life; hippies, mad surfers, Tai Chi teachers, people living in yurts.
 I was once told of a ‘Mystic Triangle’ theory about lay lines creating a triangle around Swansea and stretching down around Stonehenge. Apparently this Cosmic Triangle creates great peace and tranquillity, which is why people, once there, rarely move away, partly because of the beauty of the Gower Coast and the verdant greenery and despite the (almost) constant rain. Apparently, Swansea is also quite famous for the variety and availability of drugs...who knows..
I have digressed. Wild Abandon is a funny novel detailing the family life on a commune, although the number of people living in the commune doesn’t seem to make it practical for the place to survive. Dunthorne draws a picture of all the negatives of a commune and is a great reminder of why one should never ever ever venture into communal living. The trials of teenage life are covered wonderfully, as are the adventures of the slightly younger brother in the book. There are drugs and alternative lifestyles and some closely observed comedic touches about marriage and the power of dictatorship to override democracy.
Dubnthorne also explores the complications of relationships in general, and in particular the difficulties of negotiating a collective of too many people drawn together for differing reasons, some seeking solitude, others support and companionship. Eventually and of course, ironically, many of the characters desert the commune for the comforts of ‘ordinary’ suburban living. They cannot live the ideology, as with many concepts, the theory of communal living is far more romantic and wonderful than the realities of sharing a fridge and a bathroom with too many people.
It’s a funny book and should be read by anyone considering communal living.

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