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(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Hannah Luckraft, so gifted with mind and wit and knowledge and understanding, briefly holds two dumb jobs, selling cardboard berry boxes and as a barmaid during the fluid and shifting time sequence of the novel. This uncertainty is not clarified by outside events apart from an aside mention of a war, presumably the first Gulf War. The historical reality does not enter the lovers’ lives. Similarly, locale shifts, often with little preparation, from Scotland to Ireland to Canada to Budapest (on her return from rehab in Canada) to Scotland to London (for a "holiday" with her witty winning alcoholic lover Robert) and back to Scotland, where Robert disappears, as she had done in Dublin. The lovers’ huggermugger but profound attachment may or may not survive their harum-scarum lives.

Hannah's often on the edge of physical and mental collapse, and falls in often enough; this in a blackly comic novel of lacerating wit along with the horrors. As she trains east once more to the Canadian rehab clinic where her long-suffering brother had arranged for her earlier, the novel moves more and more out of focus. Readers do not know whether her hope of finding Robert is hopeful illusion, or the final onset of delirium tremens, or whether there is an actual possibility.

And yet Hannah's love for Robert and for her loving and forgiving parents surprises readers with passages of tenderness and solicitude, the more persuasive because of the ruthless lucid powerful mind that embeds them in a narrative about spiraling out of control to the edge of the void, and over. Still, in a novel in which the protagonist sees alcoholism as a gift, perhaps even from God, one cannot discount any possibility, even of bliss. So just maybe paradise may exist on the back side of despair in A. L. Kennedy's Paradise.