The Long Take

Robin Robertson                   Pages: 234                   Published: 2018

The book: A Canadian D-Day veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder feels unable to go home to Nova Scotia. Instead, he journeys from New York to Los Angeles and then to San Francisco. This is the story of his odyssey across America.  It is told mostly in lyrical verse.

You might like it because: Robertson tells the story of a man viewing America from the perspective of an outsider during what was a turbulent and often ugly time in the country’s history. While set in the past, many of the themes covered will resonate today.  Robertson’s beautiful verse paints a vivid picture of the 1940s and 1950s for the reader. Don’t be put off by the poetry; think of it as a story told in short lines that don’t always span the page.

What did other people say?
“A beautiful, vigorous and achingly melancholy hymn to the common man that is as unexpected as it is daring.”
– John Banville, The Guardian (U.K)

The Long Take shows it is perfectly possible to write poetry which is both accessible and subtle, which has a genuine moral and social conscience…This is a major achievement.”
Scotland On Sunday (U.K)

Awards & Recognition:
Shortlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize
Winner of the 2018 Goldsmith Prize for innovative fiction
Winner of the 2018 Roehampton Poetry Prize

How quickly will you get into the book?
The first verse, with its rich and vivid description of New York, pulled me in straight away.

You might not like it because: It is mostly told in verse, and if you really cannot tolerate poetry, then this is not the book for you.
The story deals with a serious subject matter that is tough to read at times. It’s not an uplifting book.

What might you read next?
If you are open to a story told in verse, you could read what’s probably the most famous story of a soldier’s post-war travels—Greek hero Odysseus’s epic journey home after the fall of Troy. Pick up The Odyssey, translated by Emily Wilson. (It took Odysseus ten years to get home, so this is not a short book.)

Robertson is Scottish and in a number of interviews has mentioned that he admires fellow Scot James Kelman’s work. You could read his novel How Late It Was, How Late which won the Booker Prize in 1994.

© 2018

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