What’s The Fly, and Its Effect upon Mr Bodley all about?:
Michel Faber revisits the world of his bestselling novel The Crimson Petal and the White, conjuring tantalising glimpses of its characters, their lives before we first met them and their intriguing futures. You’ll be desperate for more by the time you reluctantly re-emerge into the twenty-first century. The Fly, and Its Effect Upon Mr Bodley follows Mr Bodley as he has an epiphany on life after watching a fly in the most peculiar of places.
What did I think?:
I’ve had a bit of trouble deciding how exactly I’m going to write this review but I’m going to carry on typing and see where the momentum takes me! Our main character is Mr Bodley, a regular “user” of the prostitutes at the infamous Mrs Tremain’s brothel in Fitzrovia. One morning, Mrs Tremain opens her door to a quite different gentleman, “bleary-eyed,” and “desperate-looking,” which is considerably different from his usual demeanour. Furthermore, it is rather early on the whole for him to be contemplating a bit of a good time and he is without his partner in crime and best friend Mr Ashwell which in itself is rather disturbing as the two men are known to be inseparable. Upon further interrogation, it is clear that something terrible must have happened to Mr Bodley:
“The willingness of comely girls, the novelty of foreign flesh, the smell of strawberries – none of these things can mean anything to me now… In this house, the candleflame of my manhood was snuffed out.”
Of course this is incredibly worrying for Mrs Tremain, Mr Bodley being one of her best customers and all, so she begs him to tell him what has happened so she may set it right. He explains that when he was last at the house and things began to get er… slightly more intimate with one of the girls, a fly came in and settled itself on her left buttock. Mrs Tremain’s defence of her establishment is one of the most hilarious passages I have read:
“We keep a clean house, sir. The Queen’s palace won’t be so clean, I’ll wager. But we must keep it ventilated, sir. That’s part of good health: ventilation. And where there’s an open window, a fly may enter. And even be so bold as to settle on a girl’s bottom.”
But Mr Bodley does not think it is the fly so much, after all he left feeling rather satisfied, job completed. It is only afterwards that he begins thinking about things more deeply. Flies and what they feed on, flies laying eggs, and how when we die our decomposing bodies crawl with maggots that arise from the eggs that are laid by flies! Even the offer from Mrs Tremain of the same girl who she assures him is very much alive and maggoty-free, or a new girl, Lily free of charge cannot tempt him or cheer him in any way. We live, then we die – what is the point in it all? Luckily for him, Mrs Tremain has an answer and a prescription for his melancholy that has him soon sleeping soundly, quite literally.
I think as with all the stories in this collection, you need to have read the author’s fantastic novel, The Crimson Petal And The White, as it involves the same characters. Fans of The Crimson will love it and the humour in it is knock your socks off, laugh out loud funny, so is definitely worth a read. I also love that Michel Faber is not afraid to explore the dark side of human nature, take a few risks and be blatantly crude in places. However, it probably isn’t for the easily offended or innocent! Really enjoying this collection so far, and looking forward to the next.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: Busted by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)