The Death of Bunny Munro

It is 20 years since Nick Cave, better known for his music, last published a novel, so it is no surprise that his interests have evolved. Long gone are the thickly biblical "murder ballads" of 1989's And the Ass Saw the Angel. Taking their place is an emphasis on family and forgiveness, along with an exploration of Englishness.

Which is not to say that The Death of Bunny Munro is all sweetness and light. The hero, Bunny Junior, shares the stage with a gallery
of Dickensian grotesques - principally Bunny Munro himself, a caricature of Cave's own preacher-pimp stage persona. Munro's reckless energy ensures that the novel resembles Roald Dahl's short fiction as much as the work of American writers such as William Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy, to whom Cave is more often compared. This is anarchy with a central message, which recalls Auden's assertion that "we must love one another and die.

The Death of Bunny Muno

Nick Cave

Canongate, 304pp, £16.99

This article first appeared in the 28 September 2009 issue of the New Statesman, The 50 people who matter