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Metronome: The 'unputdownable' BBC Two Between the Covers Book Club Pick

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Aina and Whitney are sentenced to 12 years banishment, for a crime that increasingly becomes apparent - they had an illegal child. As she comes to grips with the decisions that haunt her past, she realises her biggest choice is yet to come. Maybe this says something about Watson’s own life, why he was compelled to tell this particular story. Are the islands we have today real, in all that we know, all that we can process, and benefit from, and use to our advantage? She is new to social media, but still into music, and a keen photographer, into pre-loved stuff and mental wellbeing, she is proud to have recently become a Litro contributor.

Metronome was a BBC Radio 2 Between the Covers book club selection for the summer of 2022 and you can see the list of 14 selections here. This book was just picked up by chance, because I had seen a review of it in the local press, but it has certainly made me think more deeply than the words on the page. I had to create a world of my own, like a climate, a country, an atmosphere (in which I could breathe, reign, and recreate myself when destroyed by living)’. I can also see onto the island from a boat and so have the view of an outsider as well as having lived on the island for sometime.

A great concept, well written with a eerie and frightening premise, but overall I felt like there could have been more to this story. Survival on ‘The Limits ’ is key, based on 8-hourly pills from a timed clock dispensary that inadvertently tether them both to the island, to each other, their quest for freedom, and what they do to achieve it.

They’ve been in exile for twelve years and are awaiting parole when one day a sheep turns up, but sheep can’t swim so where has this one come from?Overall I found this a worthwhile read and one that seemed quite different to many of the books I I've read. Does he like what’s going on in the world (at the time of writing Metronome it was the pandemic; at the time of writing this review, there is war in the Ukraine). In Metronome, determination exposes any flaws or attributes that Whitney and Aina (which means always) might have.

The cultural references – Giacometti, Copenhagen, the Vikings – indicate a world that is recognisably ours, and a background of accelerating climate change suggests the narrative is taking place in the near future. The book moved between past and present to fill in some of the details about the main characters but I was still left wanting to know more. Sure, there’s an undercurrent of mild thriller, a human study, a deeper issue of crime and punishment - no matter what the crime or misdemeanour, and whether the punishment fits it.Ottessa Moshfegh deems that within good fiction, “you feel shaken, ‘woken up’, affected“ as a reader. His debut novel, Metronome, was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize, and his short fiction has been shortlisted for the Bristol Short Story Prize and awarded runner-up for the Seán Ó Faoláin Prize. Both Whitney and Aina were very complex characters but unfortunately I did not seem to warm to either of them. However, they are coming to the end of their time there, ready for the Warden to come and take them back to society. The pace and intensity increases as the story goes on, with an almost unbearable crescendo until the breathless last line.

There is no chance of escape, their survival relies on the dispensing of a tablet every twelve hours which keeps them alive.Do we look at Whitney and Aina as the same people at the end as they were at the beginning – and in their shoes, would we be, after 12 years? Metronome’s rough landscape is surely spooky enough without any added non-ideal, ill-ideal, dis-ease, un-ideal . Is the freedom for themselves or for someone else; do you give up your freedom for the sake of another? Not dismissing an element of brainwashing, one could argue whether they actually live on an island – after the discovery of ‘a spine. While there is an argument to be that as it's a story of Aina and Whitney's "present" they wouldn't be reflect on a past that they haven't interacted with, the fact that the story is told in the third person means that there is scope there in the writing to include it.

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