Book Review: The Ghost of Neil Diamond by David Milnes
December 23, 2012 11 Comments
This sounded like a fun book and a bit “different”. So it was. But while there was nothing wrong with the writing, I didn’t like the story too much. I didn’t like the main character and could not understand why he did what he did.
The Ghost of Neil Diamond: What it is about
Neil Atherton is a fading folk singer who has followed his wife Angel from the UK to Hong Kong, where she works while he does very little. On a karaoke night in a bar he does a fantastic rendition of a Neil Diamond song. A man claiming to be an impresario, Elbert Chan, suggests they talk about a contract to perform in the best clubs of Hong Kong.
But Neil is left waiting for things to happen. His wife has enough of Neil’s loafing and she throws him out, giving him money to go back to England. But Neil is smelling success and relies on Elbert Chan to make it all happen for him.
The Ghost of Neil Diamond: What I thought
I loved the premise and the setting. The fading singer is given a last chance to make something of his life, but is being kept waiting by Elbert Chan, who may or may not be who he says and may or may not have work for him.
I didn’t agree with Neil staying in Hong Kong. I thought he should have listened to his wife and gone home. I would have bought a plane ticket from the money she’d given me and be out of there. Not because there is something wrong with Hong Kong, but because it was obvious staying would lead him nowhere good. Maybe the book didn’t explain well enough for me why it was so important that Neil stay in Hong Kong (or that Neil tries one last time to follow this doubtful career option). In any case, I didn’t buy it, and that made the book less interesting for me.
There are some fun encounters in the book, for instance with a Sammy Davis Jr. impersonator and later, with a more well-known Neil Diamond impersonator. There’s fake glamour and seediness, hope and the harsh reality. Towards the end of the book things start to look up for Neil, in a most doubtful way. He takes impersonation a step further, which was very fun to read about.
It was not quite a book for me, but this dark comedy has a lot to go for it. If you enjoy reading about a middle-aged man who is desperate to make something of his life, this is a great book.
Rating: 3 (out of 5)
Number of pages: 290
First published: 2008
I got this book: from the author for review
Genre: contemporary fiction
Have you read this book?
What did you think?