Jockey McAuley is 15 years old, with no idea what he's going to do with his life, when he somehow or other ends up working for Mr Hardaker at Paton Electrical. His job - well it's odd. It's mostly to shadow Mr Hardaker and watch / listen and remember everything that happens. Somewhere in the background there's something going on at Paton Electrical though. There's reference to "the Phoenix affair", there's police, there's the owner of the factory in his wheelchair, there's great big cars, a secretary, canteen gossip and Ludo. Ludo is Fred Paton's nurse or companion, or something. Something a 15 year old boy with a good Catholic mother can't quite get a handle on.
LUDO (the book) is told entirely in Jockey's voice. It's written as a reminiscence, Jockey looking back at his role in the lives of Hardaker, Paton and Ludo (the woman). It was a very short episode in his life, but it has obviously had a very profound effect - although the full extent of that effect isn't revealed until right at the end of the book. Nothing much is fully revealed until the end of the book mind you - it's in the last few chapters that the full extent of the Phoenix Affair (for that matter what the Phoenix Affair actually is) is fully revealed.
Reading LUDO I have to confess to frequently feeling a distinct sense of frustration. There's a lot of Jockey and Hardaker running around, and because the book is told completely from Jockey's point of view, there's a sense of repetitiveness, a certain floating feeling filled in by a lot of chat to cover the nothingness of the action. Which isn't quite true - there's something going on always, but it's bubbling away under the surface, hidden within the detritus of people seeming to go about their daily lives, just a little bit on edge. I suspect what the author is aiming for is to give the reader some sense of Jockey's own confusion - even his own frustration at sitting, and listening and watching and not really knowing why or even what's going to come of all of this. It's all a bit mysterious - both to Jockey and the reader. The book is set in the 1960's and the terminology and setting, seemingly accurate, does help to put the reader very much in the same position as Jockey. Watching, listening, remembering, not quite getting the whole picture, wondering what the hell is going on here.
LUDO isn't exactly a gentle reading experience, there are points at which you just want something, anything, to happen. Just something to break up the waiting and watching and wondering. There are points at which you'd really swear you'd missed something - just as Jockey obviously thought he'd missed something. It's an interesting book LUDO, undoubtedly one of those books that will divide readers, and whilst I found myself squirming with frustration whilst I was reading it, something definitely kept me with the story right to the end.