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Novel set in Chamonix (“go hard or go home”)

2nd March 2015

Cham by Jonathan Trigell, novel set in Chamonix, France.

IMG_0142A novel that in many ways pays a bit of homage to Chamonix, the town in the Alps that is all about superlatives: “the longest; the highest; the biggest; the most dangerous”.

The author has spent a decade in the Alps working right across the ski industry and his experience shines through. He writes with an authority and relish that brings life on the slopes to the reader. Descriptive passages of snow and scenery are superbly rendered, “powder’ is afterall what it’s about – “It comes so infrequently, lasts unsullied by the sun, unblasted by wind, untracked by people for such a brief instant, that it is purity and transience and pleasure distilled”.

The author is clear that the Chamonix he depicts is very real in many aspects, but for the purpose of the noir undertone, he has used a little writer’s license. He depicts Cham Sud as the ghetto where the workers live, who service the engine that is Chamonix in the Winter. It is a run down area and beneath it is a large, decrepit car park, where a series of rapes take place.

Itchy is the main character who is motivated to track down the rapist, and discovers a lair – a kind of underground cave in the car park, from where he can monitor comings and goings, hoping to catch the rapist red-handed. This might seem odd (which indeed it is) but it is a device that allows the author to digress – the author is at pains to introduce the reader to the works of an exclusive group, living in or around the Villa Diodati on the shores of Lake Geneva in 1816. Byron, together with John Polidori, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Shelley, spent much time in each other’s company and it was here that the story of Frankenstein found its beginnings. Frankenstein, too, lived in a cave, up in the mountains around Chamonix. Et voilà le lien, that is the link. In the Chamonix of “Cham“, the ultimate question is: who is really the monster? How does one atone for past misdeeds? How can one ever move on?

The story is well written, moves at a good pace until about half way through and then slides around as it loses focus. It goes back in time to move the story forward, it shares details of a competition at quite some length, and ultimately there are too many strands competing for attention. But the thing any reader will take from this novel is an insight into the edgy and heady lifestyle of a top ski resort in the Winter, experience Chamonix as a place, coupled with interesting observations along the way: for example, if you are a Parisian (staying during ‘Black Week’ when the locals hate the Parisians even more than they do the English, which is quite something!) you must not wear jeans to ski. Ok? Just don’t, it is not a good look.

Cham” is a kind of Bildungsroman (oops wrong language) in its own inimitable way – a bit of history, a bit of culture, a bit of Chamonix – blended into quite a sinister storyline .

Tina for the TripFiction Team

You can follow Jonathan on Twitter and via his official website

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