Book Review – In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut

In a Strange Room, or as I would have entitled it, The Hikers Guide for Those Who Don’t Want to go Hiking. I rate books and movies from 0 to 9 – so my 9 is really a 10. I always start out with a 9 in mind and then deduct points. With this work a couple of points disappeared as soon as I saw Damon was not using quotes on dialogue and then another point evaporated when I noticed he was not even putting a question mark at the end of a line of dialogue which was in fact a question. I think it’s lazy and such writers are unthinkingly ignoring the needs of the reader (see page 55 for example), but maybe it’s a case of just trying to appear ‘modern’. The swapping from first to third person and back again in a single paragraph, for no apparent reason, was likewise very annoying. But that’s my bitching done.

However, over and above my niggle points, the book had a unique ‘feel’ to it with Damon bringing to life a constant sense of unease, a low-level underlying tension, a feeling that something was about to turn bad, and it often did – this kept me turning pages. And Damon certainly took me to places I will never go and do not want to go. Also, walking, unless it’s on perfectly level concrete, is something I detest, so I’m grateful that Damon did that for me. Being an acutely lazy person, I like to live vicariously. His descriptions were good and I felt close to the characters. The whole work has the feel of authenticity (although an internet search failed to confirm this). This is a book I’ll always remember as long as I have a memory in which to retain it. That said, I don’t feel I want to read it again.

When I finished the last page I closed the book and set to contemplating what it was I had just read and I came to the conclusion that “In a Strange Room” is a down and dirty “On the Road” (remember Jack Kerouac?), a road book that doesn’t hold back from all the grit and shit. Well worth the read but I’m glad it was only a short work.  I’m giving it a 7.

Steve Reilly