Book Review: Simon Rumley's THE WOBBLE CLUB

Simon Rumley's debut novel reads faster and easier than its protagonists can ever move.

Editor, Europe; Rotterdam, The Netherlands (@ardvark23)
Book Review: Simon Rumley's THE WOBBLE CLUB
Directing films is hard enough in itself, but getting films made at all is another story. "Development Hell" is unfortunately a very real place and many people grow frustrated and disillusioned with the process, often leaving the industry altogether. Spending all of your time and energy on something that's this risky, with the added potential to ruin you financially and in other ways, is just not feasible or advisable.

This year we've seen several directors take their ideas to another medium. Richard Raaphorst finally released his apocalyptic zombie epos Worst Case Scenario, but as a graphic novel, not as a film. Anna Biller published her first novel this year: Bluebeard's Castle. And now we get Simon Rumley's The Wobble Club, which is indeed not a film, but a book.

Normally we do not review novels here on this site, but we're big fans of Rumley and we actually mentioned the crowdfunding campaign back in November. As such, it's only fair to tell you all what the end result turned out to be like, right? So here goes.

In The Wobble Club we follow the daily life of Brolly and Gill, a jovial couple in London who spend a lot of their time on their favorite hobby: eating. They weigh over 400 lbs, over 200 kilograms even.
But in the words of Dean Martin: such a lifestyle only becomes a problem when you can't pay for it. Brolly and Gill are fairly rich and happily rotund, even participating in eating contests during the weekend.

But then a similarly morbidly obese friend of theirs falls ill and dies, and it sets Brolly thinking... Shouldn't they try to lessen it a bit, try to lose weight, live longer? Gill refuses to even consider it though. Eating is her life and her formidable size is her identity. Therefore she won't stop, even if her food intake might eventually turn her into a dead globe. So when Brolly does decide to diet, he does it on the sly... starting an increasingly hard-to-hide crisis of confidence between the two.

Three things are immediately noticeable. First: the book is itself rather a fatty at 400 pages. Thankfully, the second thing you notice is that it reads at great speed and you'll munch through dozens of pages in no time. Which will make you notice the third thing: for someone known as a visual artist, Simon Rumley sure likes his word jokes. The Wobble Club is riddled with language puns and thankfully these are rather good, making the prose a playful read.

Storywise, it's a gentle drama until it's a not-so-gentle drama. Fans of Rumley's films can expect some of his key characteristics here: sympathy with even the most sordid of his characters, and the willingness to nevertheless put them through hell, often of their own making. If you've seen The Living and the Dead, and Red, White and Blue, and Fashionista you know his leads have a tendency to not be able to help themselves.

Telling more about what happens would be spoiling things. Rest assured you'll have a good laugh or two, but sympathetic characters or not, Rumley unflinchingly shows the shadow side of being that much oversized. The necessary care. The disabilities. Clothes (and how to get them on). The dangers, and not just of the coronary and diabetic kinds. The local fame. The fetishists.

Simon Rumley has written an impressive debut which lingers in the mind after having read it. A hefty mix of comedy and drama with the occasional dollop of suspense, I recommend it.

(Editor's Note: Yes, Ard participated in the crowdfunding and yes, his name is in the back of the book under acknowledgements - albeit misspelled - so feel free to call him biased. Be that as it may, he's not being financially rewarded for this review and he says he loves the book regardless. So there...)
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