THE ONE thing I really appreciated about Catch 52 is that almost without exerting too much analysis or thought, I could tell that this was the silliest, most superficial pseudo-polemic I’m likely to consider for the rest of my life.
An anorexically slight novel in word count, narrative and characterisation, its protagonist is Mike McCarthy, a soft-hearted and soft-headed Remainer, who wakes up on June 24 last year and tries to recall the origins of his proEU delusions.
Using the most cliched secondary characters imaginable, PG Ronane insinuates through a series of historic encounters an EU Commission-approved version of post-WWII events.
Like most tiresome liberals, McCarthy’s Europhilia is predicated upon the adventures of his genitals as he recalls romantic shags with Suzanne from Paris and Maria from Berlin.
Mind you, at least Maria has something about her, describing Leni Riefenstahl as “a nazi whore.” McCarthy merely vacillates and follows the Guardian line on just about everything.
Drawing on his experiences of Interrailing nookie, Ronane’s “hero” is able to both blight the achievements of the German Democratic Republic and those swathes of leftist working-class ranks who saw through the Delors delusion and voted to leave the bosses’ European club. At his most generous, Ronane patronises the anti-EU British working class.
At his worst, he caricatures the novel’s main anti-EU left politician as an intemperate thug with, hilariously, a suspected past as a Militant activist.
Ronane records with approval the rise of Petra Kelly and the German Green Party in the 1980s as some kind of bridge between the oppressed workers of East Germany and the deluded masses a little further west.
As a character, McCarthy is a two-dimensional nonentity, a piece of cheaply rendered liberal agitprop offering nothing of sustenance, either to his family or the reader.
On the evidence of this dull, tendentious and juvenile offering, Ronane’s future as a novelist is not a likely option.