By Scott Carroll
Aug 09, 2018
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Review: The Locust Room – John Burnside

The Locust Room is what you would call a “campus novel”, set around the university life of Cambridge in 1975. The protagonist, a quiet and troubled young man, copes with a series of transgressions over the course of a few years, while in parallel, another character is stalking and sexually assaulting vulnerable women at night.

Bleakness is the first word I could give you to describe The Locust Room, but it’s bleakness for the sake of setting the scene. Paul is written in a way so as to make you aware of the “weight” he is carrying throughout the plot; all times dark, overcast and teeming with hostility in both the setting and the people he deals with. His lameness and feeble mindset only exacerbate an encroaching feeling of doom—which, I might add, goes well with the few chapters we get of the rapist’s perspective.

Despite Burnside nailing his intended visual atmosphere, there isn’t much to take away from The Locust Room. His attempt to portray Paul’s state of being leaves the rest of the book lacking, so all you are left with is essentially the story of a brooding, selfish and shadowed man. It could have been more, you know?


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