By Chance

By Chance

by Martin Corrick

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An author whose debut novel, The Navigation Log, garnered him comparisons with Waugh and Maugham, Martin Corrick now returns with a story even more dazzling. By Chance is both suspenseful and thought-provoking, a philosophical tale that is rivetingly readable.

“The events that resulted in Bolsover’s presence at the Alpha Hotel are…  See more details below


An author whose debut novel, The Navigation Log, garnered him comparisons with Waugh and Maugham, Martin Corrick now returns with a story even more dazzling. By Chance is both suspenseful and thought-provoking, a philosophical tale that is rivetingly readable.

“The events that resulted in Bolsover’s presence at the Alpha Hotel are closely related to his memories of his wife.” James Watson Bolsover is an apparently normal middle-aged man, a shy yet soulful engineer turned technical writer who for many years shared a passionate marriage with his lovely wife, Katherine. Bolsover’s wife and his deep interest in his work made his life perfect, but then–by chance, misfortune, bad luck–he lost Katherine and, with her, his innocence. Now he travels by sea to a remote island and checks into what seems to be an ordinary hotel; in this safe haven he hopes to understand the past and start afresh. But we quickly discover that all of the hotel’s occupants, like Bolsover himself, have uncertain histories: All of them are “someone else,” seeking to leave their former lives behind.

As Bolsover grows accustomed to his new surroundings–and close to a new woman–the truth of his life trickles out like blood from a wound. He is not quite the simple fellow he seems, but a man who has carefully shielded his own history not only from others but also from himself. Culpability, identity, morality, and luck–all these play a part in a story that echoes our own lives.

Writing in terse, elegant, and irresistible prose, Martin Corrick proves himself a new British master. By Chance is an unforgettable novel that combines intelligence with emotion, and lingers in the mind.

Praise for Martin Corrick’s The Navigation Log:

“Deeply moving . . . This remarkable first novel owes the maturity of its tone . . . to an elegiac vision that reaches beyond death to [a] powerful network of connections that encircle the present and the past.”
The New York Times Book Review

“The main delight of this book is its loving re-creation of time and place. Corrick has an uncanny ability to enter into the life of the thirties and to draw out details that reveal both the sweetness and the blandness of country life.”
Baltimore Sun

The Navigation Log flies like an arrow, swift and true. You may weep, but you will also thrill.”
–James Salter, author of Last Night

“Corrick’s ear for dialogue . . . adds humour and pace to the account of parallel lives in the realms of earth and sky.”
The Times Literary Supplement

“Carefully crafted in the manner of Waugh and Maugham . . . rich with period ambience and dry wit.”
Publishers Weekly

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Corrick follows his promising debut (The Navigation Log) with another intricate novel where readers must work to detect the story within a sparse yet elegant narrative. This time the setting is contemporary England, the protagonist a man whose life passes quietly until an extraordinary event strikes. James Watson Bolsover is first seen seated on a dock, waiting for a ferry. Raised by parents who leave him their house and little else, Bolsover, at age 20, finds his home and income as a technical writer enough to attract a delicate 19-year-old wife, Katherine. Bolsover tries to work out what love and life are about as he puzzles over his bride's budding passion. After 16 years, he becomes a widower, adding grief to the emotions he experiences without understanding. An accident in middle age then propels him into the nightmare that puts him on the dock. Corrick proves as meticulous as Bolsover at crafting a story that will send readers racing back to reread so they can retrace Bolsover's steps and savor Corrick's language. (Oct.)

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Library Journal

In late middle age, James Bolsover journeys by ferry over a stormy sea to a remote English island to start his life over again. What has brought him and the other guests of the Alpha Hotel into the care of their stalwart Greek innkeeper remains a mystery. In his earlier life, Bolsover enjoyed work as a technical writer for an engineering firm, owned a cottage with a well-tended garden, and had a happy marriage to the pretty but frail Katherine. When Katherine dies young and his firm goes into decline, Bolsover sells his home and reinvents himself as a freelance writer. But all that is behind him as he seeks sanctuary at the Alpha and, through his friendship with a fellow lodger, slowly reveals the twists of fate that have brought him there. The story of Katherine's sexual awakening is only one of the many ways in which this intensely satisfying novel surprises and enchants at every turn. From the author of The Navigation Log; warmly recommended.
—Barbara Love

Kirkus Reviews
Questions of identity, randomness, fate and sin collide in a curious tale of what makes an unremarkable Englishman's life unique. That life, belonging to "a man in late middle age" named James Watson Bolsover, is reviewed during a stormy ferry ride to an island on which he is to take up a new existence. Born of working-class parents, Bolsover was poorly educated but given to big questions. "How did I get here?" he wondered in 1954, when he was only ten. It's the first of many philosophical enigmas to be debated in Corrick's second novel (The Navigation Log, 2003) as he retraces his protagonist's odyssey. Bolsover always tried to improve himself, reading widely. His passion for words led to a career as a technical writer, later success as a copywriter. Married to Kitty, who was initially frigid and nervous, he wooed her with storytelling that unleashed her passionate sexual nature. But Kitty died, leaving Bolsover lonely. One fateful snowy night, he had sex with a young prostitute and, driving away afterward, killed a child in a traffic accident. Now the trip to the island explains itself: Bolsover has served his sentence and been given a new identity to protect him from the threat of violence from the dead child's father. Corrick's affectionate depiction of a small English life sometimes recalls Mark Haddon, but the book also features surreal, symbolic touches. Its cast of enigmatic characters includes a ship's captain, a young roller-blader and a birdwatcher. The parable-like tale concludes as Bolsover firmly steps toward the future, with all its uncertainties and possibilities. At times endearing, at others perfunctory: an intriguing attempt to ponder big ideas in a small way. Agent:Derek Johns/AP Watt

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Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
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Meet the Author

Martin Corrick is the author of The Navigation Log. He holds an MA in creative writing from the University of East Anglia and for much of his working life was a university lecturer, but he has also worked as a journalist and copywriter. Corrick now writes full-time and lives in the county of Dorset in England.

From the Hardcover edition.

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