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Metronome: The 'unputdownable' BBC Two Between the Covers Book Club Pick

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It could tie in with Aina’s mantra Yan Tan Tethera (notice the word tether hidden there) with the Celtic method of counting sheep, and perhaps introduce the concept of a spirit animal.

It was filmed on Yell, off the Isle of Skye, with its dramatic landscape and far-reaching vistas, similarly to ‘The Limits’ where Metronome is set. I cannot help but think that the premise of this novel is metastatic where even feelings about feelings are involved. This book really emphasises the two types of people - those who accept what is, and those who try to chang their situation. Whilst I'm not sure Metronome brings anything new to the genre, I did enjoy the atmospheric descriptions and Watson did a good job of making the couple's predicament believable. The setup is that a couple, Aina and Whitney have been in exile on a supposed island for 12 years for the crime in their future dystopian society of conceiving a child without a permit.

The descriptions of the island were very atmospheric and detailed to the point that I found myself dreaming I was on the island! For twelve years Aina and Whitney have been in exile on an island for a crime they committed together, tethered to a croft by pills they take for survival every eight hours. Aina’s creator, Tom Watson, now billed by Bloomsbury as a literary star of 2022, is a graduate of University of East Anglia (UEA) in creative writing, where he won the Curtis Brown Prize.

Her work has regularly been published on Friday Flash Fiction (which also appears on Twitter) and has appeared on Paragraph Planet and several collections of new writing. The author captures the pure desolation of the landscape, with the weather playing such a large part in the story. I am honestly not sure what to say about this book- I have been left very confused and unsure about what actually happened in this novel.Maybe this says something about Watson’s own life, why he was compelled to tell this particular story. Using flashbacks Watson takes us back to Aina and Whitney’s life in an unspecified country which is very much like ours, but with small yet noticeable differences. Metronome was a BBC Radio 2 Between the Covers book club selection for the summer of 2022 and you can see the list of 14 selections here. The plot is very character-focussed, told from the perspective of Aina, and we are rooting for her throughout the story, with occasional chapters dedicated to (vaguely) explaining what happened before to cause them to have been exiled.

Katherine Mansfield also combines the senses and elements in her ‘Voices Of The Air’ poem using air, sound, sea, wind and music, ‘sighs’, ‘double notes’ and double basses, that appear in ‘rare’ moments.Despite its dystopian nature, it felt unsettlingly plausible, and this gave it a tense and chilling atmosphere. Both Whitney and Aina were very complex characters but unfortunately I did not seem to warm to either of them. Whitney and Aina were sent to remote island to carry out a prison sentence for raising a child without governmental consent. According to Wille, fire speeds things up for example, water slows things down; air gives focus and earth opens out. There is a clock/timer which dispenses the pills they must take each day and again, there is the image of time ticking, counting down.

Metronome by Tom Watson is out now, and is soon to be on BBC2’s excellent book show, Between The Covers. There is the significance of the number twelve, too, the years they serve on the island as punishment. Metronome is an addictive and hugely compelling novel, I was totally enraptured by the characters and the plot.I also felt like I still needed to know more, the book finishes with an ambiguous ending that I wasn’t keen on and I did feel that the last part of the story was rather rushed. The book moved between past and present to fill in some of the details about the main characters but I was still left wanting to know more. They have been alone, fending for themselves, they are married but the love and trust they once had is now replaced with doubt and paranoia.

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