Adrian’s Journey is Alison Cooper’s second book and deserves to be widely read (and, indeed, turned into a film). It is in essence a Quest Novel, with the young hero, Adrian, seeking the whereabouts of his biological mother Patti, who may or may not live in Beirut. The trials and tribulations faced by Adrian in his quest are told through a fast-paced and gripping narrative that takes the reader into the darker corners (literally) of the Middle Eastern conflict. He emerges sadder and wiser, but optimistic and well-prepared to take his place as a citizen in today’s complex international society.
The book also has other quests to pursue. Adrian’s adoptive family, sympathetically drawn and in many ways admirable, strive to come to terms with his journey away from them and their slightly offbeat domesticity in rural Suffolk; his horizons are expanding and his experiences broaden the questions he asks about life, rather to their concern. Moreover, the novel starts as Adrian begins his undergraduate life at SOAS in 2000, registered on a course in Chinese (though he quickly gravitates towards Arabic). His group of friends in London provides him with a multi-national and multicultural social setting which creates its own convincing account of student lives and loves, hopes and fears, achievements and failures. These characters are strongly, if not deeply, drawn and offer (to this reader at least) an engaging counterpoint to the main thrust of the story, Adrian’s visits to Beirut, an ambiguous city of mystery, violence and moral confusion.
There is much to enjoy in this book. The dialogue is generally convincing, if occasionally a little dated, even for 2000; the plots are skilfully constructed and intertwined; and the pages turn themselves. We want to know what happens next. I have one reservation: the book ends with a brief Epilogue which details the future CV of each key character. Although other reviewers have applauded this coda, I should have preferred the future to remain the future not least because, as with all good fiction, it is implicit in the characterisations that are developed in the body of the novel. While my advice is not to read the Epilogue, I’m sure few readers will want to resist it. But do read Adrian’s Journey - it’s a worthwhile destination.