15 June 2012

Tony Parsons, Departures, 2011

In August 2011 Tony Parsons became writer-in-residence at Heathrow’s Terminal 5, and these seven interlinked short stories are the result of that fruitful week. Having been connected with Heathrow for most of my professional life I thought this collection might be a bit of an unrewarding ‘busman’s holiday’, but it’s the details of the working lives of other Heathrow mavens that really caught my eye, and for readers unconnected with Heathrow other than when just passing through these stories will probably be even more eye-opening: the mysterious green plane near the perimeter, the bird-scarers, the relentless attempts of small-time criminals to evade border control, the stressful lives of travelling animals, the remote coolness of the air traffic controllers, the pull of the sky and the amazement that can come from thinking too much about modern aviation. I had a problem with the feasability of the first story in this small collection but in truth that’s a minor cavil; Parsons’s characterisation is good (particularly the seen-it-all humanity of his Border Agency immigration officer Jaswinder Smith) and this successful collection is going on my shelf for keeps. Nice one, Tony.  PY


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