It is very difficult for a book (or a film) to make me laugh. I won’t say it’s because I lack a sense of humor but since most of the things I watch or read are generally depressing so when a crumb of humor does appear, at most, I’ll smirk.
The Nacullians was different though. I could not stop laughing. Each chapter was just made me roar or giggle. This was due to Craig Jordan-Baker’s writing style but I’ll get into that in a bit.
The plot itself is simple. The Nacullians describes the trial and (few) tribulations of a working class family living in working class area. Jordan-Baker focuses on many aspects of this type of society – gang wars, racism, toxic masculinity (obviously these are not exclusive to working class areas) and then other matters such as suicide and teenage pregnancy. All the chapters are in non chronological order so it’s up to the reader to piece together a proper timeline of this family.
However the standout of the book is the language. Craig Jordan-Baker has a way of joining odd similes, casual observations, repetitions and fourth wall breaking statements which will cause laughter. Some examples : Nandad who is proud of his three testicles and thinks it’s a sign of his masculinity when in actuality he’s suffering from testicular cancer, There’s the saga of Thunder the dog, Gary , the grandson who has a nasty accident due to a foghorn, Bernard the son, who manages to gain the upper hand on his second day at work on a construction site due to a sandwich. This is just a small spattering of the type of laughs present in The Nacullians.
Like all good comedy there is definitely an layer of pathos, this family are going through emotional problems. The chapter of the Milk Woman’s letter is such proof, or Nandad and Patrice’s ‘origins’. Craig Jordan-Baker is clever and makes sure the sad elements never dominates and adds doses of his particular brand of humor, mind you the reader still is conscious of the seriousness of most of the topics tackled in these chapters but in the process a laugh is guaranteed.
There’s also some interludes in the book, which focus on both the rural and urban areas. I found these sections to be the more poetic parts of the book, They also helped create a better understanding of The Nacullians environment.
What else can I say? The Nacullians is an absolutely fantastic book. Never have I read a novel which tickles the funnybone and manages to also create the sensation of banging your actual funnybone. What I mean is that humor and pathos are mixed superbly. The Nacullians was a treat from the start to it’s reflective conclusion.
Many thanks to Époque Press for providing a requested copy of The Nacullians
For Maltese readers
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