Literary Saloon
Site of Review.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs.

the Best
the Rest
Review Index



to e-mail us:

In Association with Amazon.com

In association with Amazon.com - UK

In association with Amazon.ca - Canada



the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Execution

Hugo Wilcken

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase The Execution

Title: The Execution
Author: Hugo Wilcken
Genre: Novel
Written: 2001
Length: 213 pages
Availability: The Execution - US
The Execution - UK
The Execution - Canada
Obsession - Deutschland

- Return to top of the page -

Our Assessment:

B- : passable thriller of a life spinning out of control

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Boston Globe A 9/1/2002 Steve Greenlee
The NY Times Book Rev. A- 17/2/2002 Adam Mazmanian
The Observer . 20/5/2001 Anna Shapiro
TLS A- 27/7/2001 Heather Clark

  From the Reviews:
  • "While Camus's specter looms large throughout The Execution, Wilcken ultimately pulls it off on his own with an engrossing, twisting narrative. His is an important new voice in philosophy wrapped up in literate storytelling." - Steve Greenlee, Boston Globe

  • "(H)is book is an exciting, nervy thriller that fulfills the demands of the genre while resonating on deeper frequencies." - Adam Mazmanian, The New York Times Book Review

  • "Through this tone and elegant patterning The Execution transcends genre. Its direct, factual narration never makes a misstep." - Anna Shapiro, The Observer

  • "The Execution purports to be an "existential novel" -- and certainly it is full of angst. Yet the label undermines Wilcken's acuity: namely, his ability to probe the connections between obsession and detachment, violence and retribution. There are occasional slip-ups (...), but overall Wilcken's ideas are provocative and engaging." - Heather Clark, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

- Return to top of the page -

The complete review's Review:

       Matthew Bourne tells the story of his disintegrating life in The Execution. The novel begins with a slight hiccup (a colleague's wife dies in a car crash), but overall his life is going well. He works at a human rights agency, Africa Action, and early in the novel gets a plum assignment: organizing the defense of an African writer and diplomat named Jarawa, sentenced to death in his unidentified Francophone West African country. Bourne lives quite happily with artist Marianne: they aren't married, but they are definitely a couple, and they have a three year old child, Jessica.
       Still, Bourne isn't averse to a little fling on the side. He thinks he can have it all, and it looks like he might.
       The colleague who lost his wife, Christian, doesn't deal with it very well -- but Bourne wasn't particularly close to him and it actually makes his work easier. Domestic life also seems to be going quite well, with Marianne expressing some eagerness to get married.
       But Bourne's life begins to unravel. Bourne discovers that Marianne is having a fling of her own, and this impacts on all aspects of Bourne's life. He doesn't perform his work-related duties adequately any longer -- despite the fact that it is a matter of great importance, as he is trying to save a life. And his relationship with Marianne spins out of control too. Eventually Bourne confronts her lover -- and Bourne makes even more of a mess of things, leading to the inevitable spiral downwards of his life completely falling apart.
       Jawara's life also hangs in the balance -- though oddly distantly. There is competition from another organization trying to save him (competition that, in part, overlaps with Bourne's domestic woes), and the man's life seems to be treated almost as a secondary consideration: more important is to be seen as the leading agency in dealing with this sort of thing, rather than actually saving his life. Jawara himself is also a somewhat questionable figure. Bourne treats his life-saving agency work largely abstractly: the human behind the figure he is trying to save seems almost irrelevant, and though he makes an effort to learn about Jawara (reading his writings, talking to his wife), he never has any sort of idea of who the man really is.
       Bourne's fall comes quickly and precipitously, and even his colleague Christian (whom he calls upon in his desperation) can't set things right. He tries to maintain some control, but he can't. Marianne falls apart, and the end comes as it must.

       Hugo Wilcken has written a passable thriller. Bourne's actions are largely understandable, even the most desperate ones, but quite a few of the events (and especially the coincidences) in the novel seem artificial or at least staged, clearly the product of a writer's imagination. They simply seem unlikely -- and to too little purpose.
       Wilcken's style is also not the most natural, and the novel does plod along in sections. And there are bits which are simply bad:

Then it occurred to me that, in any case, I'd destroyed that piece of music forever. For the rest of my life, whenever I heard it I would no longer be reminded of Marianne's young body, instead I would remember the one now stretched out before me.
       (How can Bourne know that that is how he will react to the piece in the future ? It is wishful thinking on his (or rather Wilcken's) part, in trying to add some (melo)drama and portent to the scene -- but this is the worst way to do it.)

       The Execution has some decent ideas and bits, and reads well enough most of the way. Still, it is largely unremarkable.

- Return to top of the page -


Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

- Return to top of the page -

About the Author:

       Hugo Wilcken was born in Australia.

- Return to top of the page -

© 2001-2010 the complete review

Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links