The very first professional review of SNUG appeared a month ago in the popular online cultural magazine Núvol. As the magazine is in Catalan, so was the review. It is now available in English, below.
Snug is the title of the latest book by Matthew Tree, and his first to appear in English: his mother tongue. Oddly enough, all this author’s work so far has been published in Catalan and occasionally Spanish, but the reversion to his native language is especially appropriate for this current work, Snug, a word which encapsulates the entire meaning of the novel, which will not leave any of its readers indifferent.
Matthew Tree | © Pere Virgili
The story begins with the arrival of a group of Africans who take the inhabitants of the host village, Coldwater Bay (a quiet little place on the Isle of Wight) by surprise in the 1970s; these inhabitants find themselves obliged to interact with their visitors, to express their opinions, to react to some very unusual circumstances and eventually to develop a crude cultural and racial response.
This is a book which reflects and helps reflect on the feelings of people of all ages, on the effects of colonisation, cultural shock, and communication between different languages, all of this peppered with a fine, intelligent sense of humour, and a sarcastic and corrosive irony which could only come from an English author.
Snug has a clearly defined structure which tells the readers exactly what is going on and from whose point of view. The characters are thoroughly ’round’ and stereotypes tend to be avoided, although the author also highlights the typical prejudices of our Western society, and in particular of English society in the year 1974.
It is worth mentioning Matthew Tree’s wide knowledge of African culture, its ethnic and linguistic variety, revealing the tremendous differences between African peoples.
One of the more remarkable aspects of the book is the press release which announces the departure of the African visitors from Coldwater Bay and which is published in the local paper, in both Swahili and English, so that everyone can read it. This text is a forceful declaration of intentions regarding the harm done to Africa during the period of colonialisation, and which demands the just reorganisation of the continent by its own inhabitants, ending with a veiled threat to return to England in larger numbers if these demands are not met.
Snug is an intense, unremittingly honest book, with an appealing soul of its own; it is also unputdownable.