John Banville reviews James Attlee's Nocturne for the Guardian.
Nocturne – a term taken over by Chopin from the Irish composer John Field, but frequently employed by painters, too, particularly Whistler – is written in the relaxed, ambulatory tone of an 18th-century rambler's tale. Attlee conducts us on a latterday grand tour that takes in, among many other places, Turner's Thames, Basho's Japan, Pliny's Vesuvius and Rudolf Hess's solitary cell in Spandau prison. We learn little about the author, not necessarily a bad thing in these confessional times, although he does throw us hints as to his predilections and anathemas; for instance, he has a keen interest in painters – Samuel Palmer, Joseph Wright of Derby, the aforementioned Whistler – and in Japanese poetry; he deplores the seemingly unstoppable spread of light pollution yet considers Las Vegas at night one of the wonders of the world; he is not too happy about noise pollution, either – "Why aren't we ever content to just shut the fuck up?" – and declares "a particular hatred for wind chimes, hanging bells and all such paraphernalia".