Mimi’s Ghost

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Although first published in England in 1995, Mimi’s Ghost is making its first appearance in the United States in 2001. While “better late than never” certainly does apply to Mimi’s Ghost, it does seem odd that it should take six years for the novel to reach America. Tim Parks, a noted and award-winning English novelist, has earned a reputation for writing wild and audacious black comedic fiction. The author of several novels, including Loving Roger (1986), Family Planning (1989), Europa (1997), and Destiny (1999), Parks employs a devilishly playful and wicked wit to comment on the human condition in all of his works. He first introduced the murderous Morris Duckworth in the novel Cara Massimina (1990; published in the United States as Juggling the Stars, 1993). The character of Duckworth has been compared to the novelist Patricia Highsmith’s amoral creation of Tom Ripley. Parks’s character is an Englishman in search of a fortune, and he is more than willing to do anything to achieve that end.

In Mimi’s Ghost, the reader finds Duckworth married to Paola, one of Mimi’s sisters, and hoping to take control of the family winery. Never one to let things run their natural course, Duckworth looks to make a destiny of his own liking for himself. While he had failed as an Englishman in Cambridge, Duckworth has no intention of doing the same now in Verona, Italy. Strangely, he looks back on Mimi as the love of his life. He becomes convinced that he can communicate with her. Through these real or imagined conversations with the dead Mimi, Duckworth sets out to take control of the world around him. Seemingly guided by Mimi, he lies his way through every situation.

Parks has written a frenetic farce that almost spins off its axis. Mimi’s Ghost is a crazy jigsaw puzzle. Readers who have not read Juggling the Stars probably should not venture into the labyrinth that is Mimi’s Ghost, because only those readers already familiar with what makes Morris Duckworth tick will have the energy to follow him through all of his self-delusional episodes.