Sunday, June 28, 2020

Means to an End by John Rowan Wilson

Listening to Debussy's piano music.

Means to an EndMeans to an End by John Rowan Wilson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

John Rowan Wilson is one of those accidental discoveries, which has led me on a quest to find all of his books. This is not easy because the author is long gone and his books are all out of print.

In Means to an End we see the dark underbelly of the business world. Chris Marshall has inherited a job with his father's corporation. He doesn't like the job, but after a failed attempt to make it as an artist in Paris, he has largely been drifting through life.

He knows and the rest of the company knows that he is there as fluff. He contributes nothing to the business, yet out of the blue, the boss wants to send him to Europe to deal with their wings in London and Paris.

This is strange, because he does so little here, what is he going to do there? Nothing, as he soon finds out. Everyone is smiley and polite, but their attitude is basically, don't you worry your pretty little head about anything, we've got everything covered.

And then an employee in Paris kills himself. Why? No one cares. Except Marshall. What is going on? He finds the widow and talks to her. It turns out that her husband was getting underpaid for his work, and finally lost his head and shot at the French head of the Paris branch of the company.

Marshall finally sees something he can deal with. But he makes some discoveries that shatter his belief in the goodness of human nature. Apparently the company has not been dealing honestly and has even been involved in illegal activities on an international level. Marshall is about to be both boat rocker and whistle blower.

But he is absolutely alone. His own father started the business, taking advantage of post WWII Europe's financial straits. Everybody else in the company, including his brother, are more concerned about keeping peace, their job and comfortable livings.

If this were a movie, everyone would behave like superheroes and have above board morals. When reading the book, I could not help but wonder, just how brave would I be in such a situation. I can think of times in my own work where I chickened out when I knew something was not right. I also had to quit because it was killing my morale. It's not so easy to be a superhero without a script guaranteeing a soft landing.

Wilson is British, but his protagonist is American. I was impressed with how deftly he nailed the voices of his American characters. He didn't make parodies out of them, as too many British authors are tempted to do. They were human. Flawed, heavily flawed, but still human beings. So were his British characters. Those are easy to parody too...stiff upper lip, hip, hip...I walk and act like this because I have a pole up my rear...the British and Americans were people you could despise but also feel for. They were real.

So were the French characters as far as that goes. Existential, fatalistic...but that's how 20th century French writers describe their own people.

Finally, Wilson showed great knowledge and insight into the international business world, even though he was educated and trained as a Doctor.

This is my second book by him and I hope to read more.

View all my reviews


Brian Joseph said...

Hi Sharon - Wilson sounds worth reading.

Without a doubt there are terribly unethical things that go on in many businesses. It must be so hard to try to speak up when one’s job is on the line. I would add that I am very lucky. I have worked for a major American Corporation for twenty- five years. Ethics is a priority with us. I have never felt that I had to ever compromise them.

Have a great week.

Debbie Nolan said...

Dear Sharon this book sounds very intriguing. Isn't it fun to discover a new author that appeals to our liking? Hope you have a good week. Hugs!

mudpuddle said...

it's interesting how books that tell it like it is in the corporate world don't seem to become very well known... if i was paranoid i'd say it was a monster plot but because i'm not, i just slot it into the place in my brain where all that suspicious stuff is located... haha.... this sounds like a great book and really reminds me of some old spy stories that i read that i can't recall who wrote them... tantalizing post, tx...

Victor S E Moubarak said...

Thank you. It sounds like an interesting book. I've never heard of John Rowan Wilson.

God bless.

Carol said...

Sounds like a good plot, Sharon, a bit like a John Le Carre novel. I just read a book by a new author to me: Lila by Marilynne Robinson. It was written in 2014 which is very modern for me but I enjoyed it.

Sharon Wilfong said...

Hi Brian!

It was a little discouraging to read this book, however, I think the author was being even handed.

Be safe!

Sharon Wilfong said...

Hi Debbie, your pictures are so beautiful. Down here it is already so hot. Be safe!

Sharon Wilfong said...

HI Mudpuddle. I think what I like about Wilson's writing is that his characters are so real. They're not just types, although they're that as well, but also very human.

As for human nature. I have always believed that we are innately corrupt and need salvation.

Hope you and Mrs. Mudpuddle are staying safe. None of that craziness in Seattle spread to your neck of the woods, I hope?

Sharon Wilfong said...

Hi Carol,

I read your post. You've encouraged me to try some newer authors. Usually I shy away because they seem so nihilistic, not to mention the offensive language and violence.

I read John Le Carre's The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. I would say Carre writes a better plot.

Hope you all are safe and healthy.

Sharon Wilfong said...

Hi Victor,

Thanks for visiting my blog. Even when I read literature written by those who are not believers, I still see God, because they show how existentialistic life is without Him.

Hope you're safe and healthy!