The House of Journalists : A Novel by Tim Finch
Welcome to the House of Journalists. Who are you and what is your story?
These are the questions that confront newcomers to the House of Journalists, the internationally renowned refuge for writers in exile at the center of this haunting Orwellian novel. Home to a select group of fellows, the House is located in a fashionable London terrace. But just how stable is this hallowed institution? Julian Snowman, the obsessive founder and chair, sees the threat of dissolution at every turn. Perhaps this explains why petty rules and restrictions abide: men live in one wing, women in the other; smoking is restricted to the central courtyard; tea is optional, but everyone attends.
As the fellows strive to remake their lives, they are urged to share their tales. Epic and intimate by turns, these stories―of courage, tragedy, and shame―become a mesmerizing chorus of voices in search of home. Among the fellows are Mustapha, who yearns for the family he tore himself from when he resisted a coup; Agnes, a photojournalist implicated in a brutal civil war; Sonny, a slight figure with don’t-mess-with-me hair, who describes a harrowing escape across continents; Edson, who perilously confides his story to his writing mentor; and Mr. Stan, who draws on the noxious cigarettes of his home island, despite having been tortured there.
Only one man manages to guard his past: the mysterious new fellow AA, whose secrecy ratchets up Julian’s paranoia. Julian suspects that AA is conspiring with a celebrated visiting writer to bring down the House. In fact, AA is planning something else entirely.
A world as beguiling as it is disturbing, Tim Finch’s The House of Journalists is a novel of heartbreak, humanity, and wit, and announces the arrival of a striking new voice in fiction.
From Publishers Weekly
The Prisoner meets The Imperfectionists in this confounding first novel from Finch, a former BBC journalist. Founded by Julian Snowman, London’s House of Journalists exists as an officious sanctuary for writers who have fled despotic governments. Current inhabitants include Mr. Stan, whose tortured, twisted body is a warning of the dangers all outspoken journalists face; Mustapha, who left his family behind in the wake of a revolution; and Agnes, a photojournalist unable to take up her camera after recording atrocities. Into this group comes the standoffish journalist AA. Julian thinks he’s there to bring down the house, but AA’s ultimate goal is more surprising than that. Finch’s novel frustrates because the story is told by a series of narrators, and the voices are difficult to differentiate. The same holds true for the journalists’ adventures, which are so generically described that they begin to sound alike. And although the author creates a Kafkaesque atmosphere in which K. would feel right at home, we get little sense of purpose. Some readers might appreciate a looming twist, but others will think it is not enough to rescue this novel from its confusion of intent. (Sept.)
With a political reporting career for the BBC just behind him, budding British author Finch will probably surprise few with a first novel spotlighting political reporters. Yet his multilayered story goes far beyond veiled autobiography and offers a deep contemplation of political defiance and creative expression. Situated in a fashionable London neighborhood, the titular house shelters exiled journalists from oppressive countries where many were imprisoned for speaking out against despotic leaders. Among the house’s colorful “fellows” are Mustapha, a melancholy soul from an unnamed Middle Eastern regime who often narrates the novel’s events; Agnes, a young photojournalist no longer able to pick up a camera; and Stan, an aging, dwarfish man whose crushed hands display the torture that ended his writing career. When a secretive new resident dubbed AA appears, the house’s founder becomes suspicious of his motives, sending shock waves through the house’s otherwise sedate daily routine. While Finch’s abrupt narrator-switches can make the story confusing at times, his richly textured prose signals the arrival of a major new voice in contemporary fiction. –Carl Hays
“Once I got into The House of Journalists I couldn’t leave! In fact, I think I’m still there. Someone please call the fire department. This prose is flammable!” ―Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story
“Tim Finch’s strong debut demonstrates how skillfully the raw materials of politics, human rights, journalistic ethics, and social responsibility can be alchemized into art.” ―Francine Prose, author of Reading Like a Writer
“Tim Finch’s probing and provocative debut sparkles with ironic intelligence and a true compassion that refuses to embrace the official version of anyone’s suffering. Brilliantly wary of false language and borrowed stories, this novel was written to last, and I believe it will.” ―John Burnham Schwartz, author of Northwest Corner
“To the dark side of triumphant globalization Tim Finch brings an intriguing and unnerving perspective. I thought of Kafka more than once.” ―Norman Rush, author of Mating
About the Author
Tim Finch works for a London think tank, the Institute for Public Policy Research. He was a BBC political journalist and is a former director of communications for the Refugee Council. The House of Journalists is his first novel.