Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 191
The equipment required for proper appreciation of "Sole Survivor" includes a familiarity with New Zealand politics since 1950 and a taste for the sordid….
Its perversity lies partly in the name given to the narrator—Raymond Sole, inevitably shortened to R. Sole by his detractors. This crude device encourages the reader to search (vainly) for double entendres in the other names and suggests an allegorical quality the book does not possess.
The story of Sole's lifelong obsession with Duggie Plumb, a bestial school friend who becomes a leading politician, is essentially Grand Guignol. Two characters go mad, and three commit suicide by drowning. There is pederasty, both sorts of homosexuality, rape, a shipwreck and a catastrophic flood.
Mr. Gee's novels have won literary awards in New Zealand and Britain, and The Auckland Star has called them "as rich a tapestry as we have so far of contemporary social life in New Zealand." That is a surprise, since the New Zealanders I know are as decorous as Bostonians.
Michael Leapman, "Comic Failure, Grim Obsession," in The New York Times Book Review (copyright © 1984 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), January 15, 1984, p. 8.∗