A Lonely Man is Chris Power’s first novel and is an interesting addition to the recent corpus of Berlin-based fiction. Power’s shimmering short-story collection, Mothers, was longlisted for the Folio prize, and this book deliberately draws separate narrative strands (and moods) together – partly to emphasise and play with the differences, partly to offer a consideration of the creative process itself... That said, the last scene of this book is superb, not least because the logic of Power’s plot has required a decision to be made to which he has to commit. My advice: buy the short stories and then buy this book and read them back-to-back.
Alarm bells ring in early chapters when the book’s protagonist, Robert, a novelist living in Berlin with his young family, spends his time mooching about the city, struggling to write a novel after a successful collection of short stories some years previously. Is this, we wonder, to be a novel about the difficult process of writing a novel? Luckily for the reader, there is a lot more going on than first meets the eye. This is an intricate and elegant story, and cleverly metatextual. A Lonely Man is an exploration of the creative process, and the sacrifices that are made in real life in the pursuit of art.
So begins Chris Power’s debut novel, an elegant, atmospheric story of shadows and half-truths. Power shares all of the letters of his surname with his protagonist as well as many biographical details: he is also the author of an acclaimed short-story collection (Mothers, 2018) and has a Swedish wife and two daughters. At times his descriptions of dinner parties and school runs recall the domestic autofiction of Karl Ove Knausgaard. But Power is a very different kind of writer — and A Lonely Man soon reveals itself as a taut, subtle, postmodern literary thriller written with an exacting command over its form.