BOOK BITES | Martin Sixsmith, Rob Hart

A monumental work, Russian style, featuring a deeply unpleasant central character and a preachy-if-predictable dystopian book: the two novels Margaret von Klemperer and William Saunderson-Meyer read this week

01 September 2019 - 00:00 By sunday times books
'An Unquiet Heart'.
'An Unquiet Heart'.
Image: Simon & Schuster

Published in the Sunday Times: 01/09/2019

An Unquiet Heart ***
Martin Sixsmith, Simon & Schuster, R305

Martin Sixsmith combines a fictionalised biography of Russian poet Sergei Yesenin with the history of Russia in the early years of the 20th century until Yesenin's probable suicide in 1925. His Imagist poetry is popular in Russia but he is best known elsewhere for having had a brief, abusive and disastrous marriage to the ageing Isadora Duncan, one of his four wives. Born a peasant, Yesenin's poetry gave him an entree into society where he met Rasputin, the Tsarina and her daughters. Later he reinvented himself as a supporter of the Revolution - one of its darlings until his self-destructive behaviour alienated the all-powerful state. This is a monumental novel, Russian style. Biography and history alternate, along with Sixsmith's translations of Yesenin's poetry. While the descriptions of a country in torment are fascinating, the central character is deeply unpleasant, making it hard for the reader to care too much. Margaret von Klemperer

'The Warehouse'.
'The Warehouse'.
Image: Bantam Press

The Warehouse ***
Rob Hart, Bantam Press, R290

The US is ravaged by gun violence, climate change and joblessness. An enormous online retail empire called Cloud not only dominates the economy but also is slowly taking over some of the functions of government. Paxton, an entrepreneur who was financially ruined when Cloud snaffled his kitchen gadget invention, finds himself in the uncomfortable position of having to work for Cloud as a security guard to survive. In the same intake is Zinnia, who is a picker-picker- and-placer in the massive warehouse, ostensibly gathering goods but in reality working undercover as a corporate spy. The two are made for one another: Paxton needs emotional sustenance, Zinnia needs to usurp Paxton's security access to carry out her mission. As is the wont of dystopian novels, Hart is as preachy as one would expect but also unfortunately predictable in the storytelling.
William Saunderson-Meyer