Chris Flood – a married father of two with plummeting self-esteem and questionable guitar skills – suddenly finds himself in the depths of polyamory after years of a near-sexless marriage. His wife, Sarah – a lover of the arts, avid quoter of Rumi, and always oozing with confidence – wants to rediscover her sexuality after years of deadening domesticity.
Their new life of polyamory features late nights, love affairs, rowdy parties with recreational drug use, and rotating childcare duties. While Sarah enjoys flings with a string of handsome men, Chris, much to his astonishment, falls for a polydactylous actor and musician, Biddy.
Then there’s Zac Batista. When Chris and Sarah welcome the successful twenty-two-year-old into their lives they gratefully hand over school pick-up and childcare duties. But as tensions grow between family and lovers, Chris begins to wonder if it’s just jealousy, or something more sinister brewing…
I’ll admit, this book surprised me. A lot. What started as a light perusal soon resulted in me tearing through the pages, simultaneously laughing and cringing at this fun and pacey black comedy.
Paul Dalgarno’s absorbing debut, Poly, offers readers a refreshingly honest and authentic take on love and sex, as well as an intimate exploration of 21st century masculinity. This is thanks, in large part, to Dalgarno’s convincing representation of the protagonist and narrator, Chris. Chris is a complex, anxious and deeply flawed character, who is struggling to navigate his new life of polyamory. The reader is privy to every crude and self-deprecating thought that crosses Chris’ mind, so that even when he’s making some fairly questionable decisions you can’t help but sympathise with him and the jumbled-up mess his life has become. In fact, all of the characters were brought to life so vividly, I felt as if they were real people rather than fictional ones.
Another strength of Poly is Dalgarno’s use of prose, which is raw, visceral and pulsing with energy. Dalgarno doesn’t shy away from touchy subject-matter either, exploring the topics of polyamory, sex, mental illness and masculinity so explicatory it will leave you wincing yet craving more. The novel is also incredibly funny, and if you enjoy black humour – which I really do – then prepare yourself for plenty of laugh out loud moments.
A searing and engrossing debut, Poly is a raw, hilarious and intimate portrait of contemporary relationships in all their diversity. I can’t wait to see what Paul Dalgarno delivers next.