Thursday, September 24, 2009

Book Review: "Edward Trencom's Nose"

I've read some of Giles Milton's non-fiction books, and always found myself wishing he'd written a novel instead, since he seemed to like to embellish things. When I saw he had written a novel, naturally I had to pick it up. Edward Trencom's Nose: A Novel of History, Dark Intrigue, and Cheese (Thomas Dunne, 2007) is the story of a not-so-humble cheesemonger (the eponymous Edward Trencom), one of a long string of cheesemongering Trencoms with a distinctively-shaped and unbeatable nose.

The discovery of a small trove of family papers, plus the realization that some dark somebody seems to be following him, leads Edward Trencom down the rabbit-hole of genealogical mystery, in which he discovers that his male forebears all seem to meet mysterious and somewhat violent ends. Naturally, he's got to get to the bottom of things. Milton alternates Edward's tale with vignettes from the lives of his ancestors, which adds something of a sideshow flair to the narrative.

Slightly absurd, often very funny, and utterly predictable at the end, I'd call this book a useful palette-cleanser, halfway between the brain candy of Dan Brown and something more serious. I did, I admit, enjoy it much more than I usually do Milton's historical writings, and hope he'll offer more in the way of humorous fiction in the future.

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