Former journalist and award-winning writer Jim Crace specialises in waiting for inspiration.
In this case, a trip to Chennai, India and the sight of shadowy creatures scavenging in rubbish bins formed the seeds of this tale.
Crace says his stories spring from things that puzzle or trouble him, and he certainly gives the reader plenty to think about, from the gulf between rich and poor to the ‘cleansing’ of the natural environment.
Alfred Busi is a recently-widowed, retired singer who lives in his family home on the outskirts of a coastal town. The story begins with Busi trying to identify noises in his dark garden. Later, Busi is attacked by a wild creature that he is sure is a child.
This is a tale of loneliness, fear of change and the difficulties of ageing and waning celebrity – when he goes out, Busi fears being recognised as much as not being recognised.
The story is beautifully written and fabulously lyrical. The Melody is summed up by Busi as “the bins, the boy, the bite, the beatings” and in many ways, it’s a simple tale, but there are rich layers of detail to enjoy.