Luke Kennard, The Transition, Fourth Estate (2017)
Paperback (Used) from $10, Kindle e-book from $8
Reviewed by Ted Witham
The Transition is the funniest – and best crafted – novel – I have read this year. Well-known in Britain as a poet, this is Luke Kennard’s first novel.
Millennials Karl and Genevieve are struggling to make ends meet. Locked out of the housing market with Karl unemployed, Genevieve is a Primary school teacher. She loves her job, and despite her day-to-day frustrations in the classroom, believes in its importance to society.
Karl writes online ‘cheat’ essays for university students of English literature. He is drawn more into the online world of writing for cash until he finds himself convicted for fraud for his almost intentional participation in an illegal scam.
Instead of jail time, the couple is offered a placement in ‘The Transition’, a program that invites a commitment of six months to turn their finances, and lives, around. They are billeted in the spare room of Stu and Jenna, who follow a mysterious Manual to reform their guests.
‘The Transition’ turns out to be not quite as advertised. As Karl explores the scheme’s underbelly, Kennard reveals a wider community based on inequality, where the poorer middle-class are shut out of the common wealth of their society, and where big data distorts and dictates their lives.
These forces override people’s compassion for mental illness, and Genevieve’s descent into illness is sensitively described.
The themes are serious. Kennard treats them seriously, but with a joyous lightness that helps us sympathise with a couple just trying to make it through the week.
I plan to re-gift my copy of The Transition this Christmas – and I have no feelings of guilt whatever in doing so. It’s the sort of novel you want to share!