The black death

A bubo-busting muckfest: Hurdy Gurdy, by Christopher Wilson, reviewed

In an essay for Prospect a few years back the writer Leo Benedictus noticed how many contemporary novels used what he called a ‘hindered’ narrator: that is, a protagonist (often a child) whose partial understanding of their world forces us to read between the lines. Unreliable narrators set out to deceive. By contrast, hindered narrators — such as the trapped five-year-old in Emma Donoghue’s Room — genuinely believe what they tell you: it’s all they know. As in Room, a hindered narrator can supply drama and pathos, but it’s handy for farce, too, as Christopher Wilson knows well. He likes to write about science biting off more than it can