Award winning author of Rohypnol, Andrew Hutchinson, is back with his first novel in over a decade. One is a dark, literary read about obsession, depression and lost love. A nameless protagonist returns to work after a workplace accident and lengthy rehab process, detached and alienated from everyone. He works nights to avoid family and friends, to avoid all normal society. But everything comes to a head when he arrives home one night to find a woman asleep in his driveway, waiting.
After offering the woman a lift home, the two are confronted by a hammer-wielding man who’s been stalking her and they escape, fleeing for safety. From here, the story turns into a road trip and it quickly becomes clear that all is not as it seems. The nameless protagonist can’t tell reality from memory, he blacks out, his woman companion (also nameless) refuses to give straight answers to his questions about where they are going and why.
The increasing strangeness and questions about what is going on pique curiosity for a while, but when it’s still unclear after 100 pages as to what is happening, the story becomes a little tedious. The two continue across rural landscapes, triggering memories of a ghost life, the truth behind his accident, and the obsession for an ex-love. The book probes the extremes people go to for love, the pain they inflict on one another and begs questions about the lengths one would go to when driven by obsession. A little more concrete story and less dangling the carrot of ‘what’s going on?’ would have made the journey far more enjoyable for the reader, though.
In praise of One, it is both beautifully and brutally written, the language its major achievement. However, most of the book is largely summed up by what the protagonist says about his journey with the nameless woman: ‘It’s like being in a dream where nothing connects, where logic and meaning isn’t clear, but everything feels possible, feels real. It all makes sense as it happens. And everything just blends into the next.’
If you like literary fiction that does not follow a traditional plot arc and has a dream-like quality to it, then you’ll enjoy One. Do not expect the same racy plot and monster characters that appeared in Rhohypnol, though, as it’s clear this writer has moved on.
Reviewed by Samantha Bond
Rating out of 10: 7
Distributed by: Penguin Australia
Released: April 2018
RRP: $32.99 trade paperback, $12.99 eBook