We have updated our Privacy Policy Please take a moment to review it. By continuing to use this site, you agree to the terms of our updated Privacy Policy.

White Lightning

ebook / ISBN-13: 9781529340341

Price: £9.99

Select a format:


Disclosure: If you buy products using the retailer buttons above, we may earn a commission from the retailers you visit.

* The Whitbread-shortlisted novel from the bestselling author of THE PROMISE OF HAPPINESS *

‘Brilliant, dazzling, unsettling; subtle and haunting; complex and multi-layered; deeply moving’ – Independent on Sunday

‘Cartwright is a brilliant observer and writes extremely well . . . [he] has produced an X-ray of modern man’s soul’ – Evening Standard

A motorcycle messenger goes into a small park in London to paint the words ‘White Lightning’ on the tank of his bike. This is the beginning of an extraordinary novel. It is told over the space of a few months, and in these few months one man’s whole life – his failures, his successes, his longing for peace and fulfilment, his loves and his tragedies – are recounted. These memories include his film Suzi Crispin, Night Nurse, and – the darkest moment – the death of his son, which has haunted him.

He inherits a small amount of money and buys a rundown farm in South Africa, where he dreams of creating an Arcadia. On the farm is a captive baboon, Piet, who becomes startlingly involved in his new life. He also has a love affair with a local woman, and becomes hauntingly involved with an African family of squatters. All the while the narrator contemplates his own life back in England and so the novel is also a sharp commentary on what Englishness means.

This is a novel about the human enterprise. It is surprising, tender, funny and utterly original.

What's Inside

Read More Read Less


A work of literary art, a mellow, beautifully constructed fable about the human hunger for goodness, it is by far the best thing Cartwright has done . . . [He] has caught to perfection the perplexities of a good man struggling for self-awareness'
Sunday Telegraph
Brilliant, dazzling, unsettling; subtle and haunting; complex and multi-layered; deeply moving
Suzi Feay, <i> Independent on Sunday </i>
One of the finest novelists currently at work ... An altogether stunning achievement
D.J. Taylor, <i> Guardian </i>
Hauntingly brilliant ... It is the best novel I have read this year.
Mick Brown, <i> Daily Telegraph </i>
Apart from being a profoundly serious writer, Cartwright can also be an abrasively amusing one. Scarcely a page of this book fails to yield some pleasure. WHITE LIGHTNING is a book of substantial merit.
Francis King, <i> Literary Review </i>
Beguiling. With this novel, Cartwright, a former Whitbread Award winner has put it all together - style, story, theme - to produce something exceptional.
Giles Newington, <i> Irish Times </i>
Subtle and moving...Cartwright weaves the story of the man and the baboon with a magicians's delicacy...White Lightning underlines the intelligence and breadth of imagination that this former Whitbread Novel of the Year winner brings to every single paragraph of his work.
<i> Daily Mail </i>
Justin Cartwright's new novel may well be his finest - in an already accomplished oeuvre. Wry, achingly true and profound without being sententious, it's a moving and bleakly funny look at life's hellish demands and occasional moments of happiness.
William Boyd, <i> Guardian </i> Books of the Year
Cartwright is a wise and perceptive novelist, keen to probe the dark places of the human heart and the complexities of post-colonial Africa, and possessed of a laudable ability to capture life as it rushes past at terrible speed.
James Smart, <i> Sunday Herald </i>
This is a moving story of a man totally alone, and a powerful evocation of a country yet to come to terms with its tragedy-strewn destiny.
Ros Drinkwater, <i> LiveWire </i>
Cartwright is a beautifully evocative writer; also one who makes you think... The rhythm is perfect, and almost every page offers such delights.
Allan Massie, <i> Scotsman </i>
No amount of irony or humour can blunt the remorseless message contained in this tender, terrible tragedy.
Rosemary Goring, <i> Glasgow Herald </i>
Cartwright's portrayal of the relationship between the man and the baboon is masterly. You know it is going to end in tears - WHITE LIGHTNING is, above all else, a book of echoes - but still the ending packs a punch of frustration and sadness.
Claudia FitzHerbert, <i> Daily Telegraph </i>
Cartwright is a hugely skilled writer and his novels are always interesting. [He] can produce passages of uncommon beauty.
Michael Thompson-Noel, <i> Financial Times </i>
Exquisitely moving.
Edwina Currie, <i> New Statesman </i> Books of the Year
Cartwright is a brilliant observer and writes extremely well. [He] has produced an X-ray of modern man's soul.
Anthony Daniels, <i> Evening Standard </i>
Cartwright manages to combine the thrilling readability of genre fiction with the unpredictability and strangeness of a literary master. It's astonishing that he still isn't spoken of in the same breath as Amis and McEwen: he ought to be.
Suzi Feay, <i> Independent on Sunday </i>
This questioning, elegiac novel is much more than just another portrayal of mid-life crisis. It deserves a place beside those accounts of Africa, from Conrad to Naipaul, which encapsulate an outsider's sense of this world as both alluring and forbidding, and always only half-understood.
David Horspool, <i> Times Literary Supplement </i>
This is fictional skill of the highest order.
Penelope Lively, <i> Independent </i>