Wall of Days by Alastair Bruce
The story itself is relatively simple. A man, Bran, has been banished from his community and found himself on an island that is slowly crumbling away beneath him. He counts his days by writing marks on his wall, and also assembling a field of stones. One day he finds his arch-enemy-turned-collaborator, Andalus, stranded whale-like on the beach. This is a clear contravention of an agreement that Bran's settlement has had with Andalus's, and gives Bran an excuse to return to his past. However, when he returns he finds the community that he left has apparently changed. The settlement has a strangeness which reminds me very much of the 60's TV series the Prisoner, and Bran has a similar conviction that all is not what it seems, including, in the end, Andalus. 'Perhaps the man Andalus is gone,' says the new Marshal of the community. 'but we should understand why there is that void, the void where he stands.'
The book was shortlisted for the Best First Book in the African Region for the Commonwealth Writers Prize, and is one of the first published by the new Clerkenwell Press headed by Geoff Mulligan, J.M. Coetzee's editor...which reminds me of the comparison I thought of in the end: not just with Coetzee, Atwood, Crace and McCarthy but also Yan Martell. Like Life of Pi it is, most of all, an inspiring allegory.
Thanks to the publisher for a review copy of this book.