Mouth To Mouth – Antoine Wilson (Atlantic 2022)

Here’s a title I flagged up as one of the potential highlights of 2022 in my Looking Back Looking Forward post.  The narrator, a writer en-route to Berlin is delayed at JFK Airport and meets a man he vaguely knew twenty years before.  They share drinks in the lounge and this man, Jeff, regales the narrator with what has happened to him in the intervening time. 

It centres around an occasion when he reluctantly saved a man from drowning and his interest in the man he saved verges on the obsessive as he inveigles his way into his life.  This theme reminded me slightly of Ian McEwan’s impressive “Enduring Love” but the subject matter is handled differently here.

There’s an element of suspension of disbelief required for Jeff’s story forms virtually the whole of the book suggesting this is one long flight delay, for his account is so detailed, our narrator must hardly have got a word in.  It is a recounting of a tale told second-hand which seems a brave narrative style for a whole novel as that distance means characters are not fleshed out in the way that they could have been.

It is an interesting conceit but to be honest it didn’t really blow me away and whilst involved, and it is undeniably well-handled by Wilson, I didn’t feel that once-remove really pulled me into the actual narrative.

I can see why some readers would really like this book and I can also see why it might leave some unconvinced.  Unusually for me, I’m somewhat stuck in the middle.  I wonder if it might just be one of those books that do not completely win me over but leaves an impression which lingers hauntingly, lasting longer in my imagination than books which I had a stronger immediate response to.  Time will tell….

Mouth To Mouth is published in the UK by Atlantic Books on March 3rd 2022.  Many thanks to the publishers and Netgalley for the advance review copy.

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