As a teenager, I used to love the book sale in Lisburn’s Easons each summer. For a couple of weeks, a huge number of unwanted, dented and dusty books were piled into the centre of the store, and I’d spend a while ploughing through the boxes for gems worth reading. It probably contributed to my wide taste in books—though a tighter taste would make for a less expensive reading habit.
Charring Cross Road Borders was flogging old stock off before Christmas. The problem with bargain books is that some of them should have sold better, and others sold exactly as well as they deserved.
And J. Robert Lennon’s Mailman falls into the latter category.
It’s the story of Albert Lippincott, a US mailman (postman), whose interest in letters goes beyond his normal duties. Fascinated by the people he delivers mail to, he starts to hold some of their mail back for a day to read their letters and delve into their lives. Over the years, he builds up a pretty good profile of his patch.
The book delves into his back-story. Biting his Physics tutor at college wasn’t a great idea. His mental illness. Falling in love with his nurse, and his subsequent failed marriage. The relationship with his sister Gillian isn’t totally normal, His problem with a cat. His mail scam being found out. And the tumour. It’s a dark comic novel, that follows Albert’s depression and paranoia until his death, and then a few pages beyond!
The review comments on the book’s first page are generous. But one from the Independent’s Matt Thorne sums it up well.
“Although I felt depressed when I finished reading Mailman, I recognised this was because Lennon had done his job well, revealing the endless sadness of everyday life.”
It’s a interesting tale, worth the £1.50, but not the original £7.99 cover price. And it could make an interesting film. But it doesn’t inspire me to read more J. Robert Lennon.