Review: Byron Easy – Jude Cook

byronWhen I started to read Byron Easy I quickly realised that it was going to be a challenge, not only because of it’s huge scale (500 word-packed pages), but also because I was going to spend all that time in the head of Byron Easy as he travelled by train from London heading to the north of England.

It is a credit to Jude Cook that once I’d got used to the bizarre spaces inside Byron’s brain, I found myself caught up in this rambling retrospective of his chaotic life. My interest grew as I began to learn of his short-lived and disastrous marriage, his self-imposed penury and his seemingly hopeless future.

The book opens with Byron sitting on a train in London’s King’s Cross railway station.  It is the last day of 1999.  He has with him the sum total of his worldly goods: a leather shoulder bag containing a notebook, a Leeds street-finder, an empty wine-bottle, a toothbrush, a wad of crumpled fivers in a Jiffy bag a change of socks and a pamphlet of his own poetry.

He is a troubled man, who has recently separated from his wife of three years, a topic we are going to explore at length over the next 500 pages, but in the meantime he observes his fellow-passengers and gives us a detailed commentary on the uncomfortable journey he is taking courtesy of Great North-Eastern Railways.

My name is Byron Easy and I am sitting – or rather sardined – in a tight table-constricted booth on a train at King’s Cross and, until a few moments ago, I was alone with my thoughts.  I am pointing north, waiting to depart and already dying for a cigarette. . . . I’m trying to remember a lot of facts in order to forget them.  Believe me it’s the only way. If you want to close the door on the past, remember it all first; otherwise it keeps returning.

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