Martin Sproale is an assistant postmaster obsessed with Ernest Hemingway. Martin lives in a small English village, where he studies his hero and putters about harmlessly–until an ambitious outsider, Nick Marshall, is appointed postmaster instead of Martin. Slick and self-assured, Nick steals Martin’s girlfriend and decides to modernize the friendly local office by firing dedicated but elderly employees and privatizing the business. Suddenly, gentle Martin is faced with a choice: meedly accept defeat as he always has, or fight for what he believes in, as his hero, Hemingway, would.
Filled with Michael Palin’s trademark wit and good humor, this novel is for anyone who has ever dreamed of triumphing over the technocrats and backstabbers of the world. Hilarious, touching, and ultimately inspirational, Hemingway’s Chair will make readers stand up and cheer.
A quiet, unassuming postman develops an unexpected obsession in this quiet, unassuming–and very English–first novel from Michael Palin of Monty Python fame. Martin Sproale is the very model of a modern Walter Mitty. An assistant postmaster in the coastal town of Threston, he lives at home with his mother and rides his bicycle to work each day. It’s a pleasant but uneventful sort of life, marked only by Martin’s growing fascination with the life, works, and personal style of Ernest Hemingway. “Tea-drinkers, mothers, post office administrators, would-be fiancées. Little people with little minds,” Martin thinks. “When would they realise that only through confrontation with danger could life be lived to the full?” Martin has transformed his room into a kind of Hemingway shrine, complete with bullfighting poster, several first editions, the same kind of typewriter Papa used–even a vintage WWI Italian army first-aid cabinet filled with all the liquors he liked to drink.
Two things happen to shatter Martin’s equilibrium. First, a new, corporate-style postal manager takes the job that by rights should have been his, promptly beginning a campaign of privatization and modernization that threatens all Martin holds dear. Second, an American woman outbids him on Hemingway memorabilia; a scholar, “not a fan,” of the writer, Ruth Kohler lives in seclusion nearby while she works on a book about the women in Hemingway’s life. Martin and Ruth engage in some increasingly heated role-playing as the conflict over Threston’s post office comes to a slow boil. Deprived of his position, his cozy world crashing down around him, Martin finds himself acting more like the he-man writer than he ever thought possible. Palin’s debut is in some ways a surprise: poignant rather than funny, skillfully paced and couched in workmanlike but hardly spectacular prose. Readers expecting Pythonesque absurdity might find themselves disappointed–but only at first; with patience, this book unfolds its more subtle pleasures with understated aplomb.