My Revolutions

Hari Kunzru’s third novel, My Revolutions, opens with a man on the run. Mike Frame, a devoted husband and father living in a London suburb, is about to celebrate his 50th birthday, but he’s got a real midlife crisis on his hands: his past as an underground terrorist in the 1970s has caught up with him. When an old acquaintance threatens to reveal his true identity as radical revolutionary Chris Carver, Mike/Chris flees his comfortable life and goes in search of a former lover, a notorious female bomber who may or may not still be alive. As he runs, Mike/Chris floats in and out of his memories as a disaffected youth, war protester, social crusader, hippie drug addict, and cleaned-up suburban family man. My Revolutions blends two themes found in Kunzru’s previous novels — identity transformation (The Impressionist) and social anarchy (Transmission) — into a story that never quite takes off like it should. Structurally, the novel is superb as Kunzru moves seamlessly between the present and the past; and we travel through memory as if we’re riding a M”bius strip. But My Revolutions lacks the spark to finally lift it off the page. Though we’re told about our antihero’s emotional dilemma and his slogan-heavy past (“We thought it had been given to us to kick-start the new world”), we never quite feel it. Kunzru presents us with a man held at arm’s length and clinically examined, as if by a bomb expert carefully cutting the red wire. There is no explosion. –