Review of ‘Paper Castles’ by B Fox

A character-driven contemporary novel, this was an enjoyable if melancholy read which had a strongly philosophical tone. It reminded me of some Japanese fiction I’ve read, which has that slow-paced meditative quality.

The story is narrated by James Brooke, a 28-year-old architecture graduate who can’t find a job in the harsh economic climate of 1992 and is full of self-doubt. A coffee addict, he goes to a diner one day and finds that the waitress, Karen, went to the same high school. He keeps returning, not for the terrible coffee, but to see her. As they become friends and then lovers, James discovers what’s most important in life, while at the same time trying to resolve his troubled relationship with his father.

The writing style is wonderful and well-phrased, blending words of wisdom with beautiful descriptions. I think the reader’s reaction to the story will depend on whether they like the narrator. Although his behaviour can be frustrating, to himself especially, the kind of thoughts he has are common to many and it will be comforting for readers to know they’re not alone in wondering what they’re supposed to do, what life is for, etc. It could be considered a coming-of-age novel, if that’s still an appropriate term for a protagonist pushing 30. I didn’t quite understand the ending but maybe I missed something.

In summary, a book that will stay with you, particularly recommended if you’re looking for character-driven fiction.

Independently published in 2021.

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