The Late Hector Kipling covers the life of an artist, the eponymous Hector Kipling, after his best friend and sometimes rival returns from New York. In contemporary London, Hector Kipling is an artist who lives with his girlfriend, Eleni, in a huge flat that was created by knocking in the walls after an old man committed suicide in the flat between Hector's and Eleni's. Hector went on to paint a portrait of the dead man's head, that he named God Bolton, which was, for the most part, very well received.
Click here to see the rest of this review
As the novel opens, Hector is in an art gallery with his best friend of many years, Lenny Snook, who has just returned home from New York City. Stood in front of a painting, Hector begins to cry, for reasons he is not entirely clear on, and rushes to the bathroom, where he has a brief conversation with a strange man who offends Hector by referring to his art as "stuff". When he has managed to calm himself down a bit, Hector leaves the room, goes back to Lenny, and engages in a stilted conversation with him before explaining that he needs to leave to see his therapist. What he does not tell Lenny is that he only started seeing this therapist after Lenny was nominated for an award due to an art piece that Hector believes Lenny stole from him.
Shortly after, Hector and Eleni take a weekend in Blackpool, to see Hector's parents. Eleni gets on well with Hector's parents, and all is well until Hector and Eleni have sex on his mother's white settee and Eleni bleeds on it in the process. Later, Hector's parents buy themselves a new sofa for an exorbitant amount of money, which causes Hector's father enough stress to put him in the hospital. Hector offers to send his mother the money for a new sofa, but she declines.
Hector finds out, nearly at the same time, that his other best friend, Kirk, has cancer, and that Eleni's mother, who lives in Greece, may be dying. Eleni rushes home to be with her family, and Hector falls in lust with an American girl at a poetry reading named Rosa.
Rosa ends up at the opening night of Hector's new exhibition, as does his therapist, Bianca, Lenny, Kirk, and oddly, the strange man from the bathroom at the art gallery. The strange man proceeds to make things even stranger by throwing manure over Hector's most famous painting, the aforementioned God Bolton. Hector is comforted by Rosa, who takes him home with her. Hector drops his phone in Rosa's bathtub before he leaves in the morning. Upon returning home, Hector is confronted by a man at his doorstep, called Monger, the strange man from the gallery, once again, who apologises repeatedly. He tells Hector that God Bolton was a portrait of his father, who he hated, due to him mistreating him as a child. They agree that the best way to square things will be for Monger to go to Blackpool and buy the settee from Hector's parents, which will hopefully be enough to get Hector's father out of the hospital.
Later in the novel, Rosa has come by Hector's flat just as the settee is being delivered. They have sex atop the settee and are caught by Lenny, who has come to inform Hector that Eleni has been calling for him, and also that Kirk is in the hospital. After visiting Kirk, Hector receives a call from his mother who tells him the house has been robbed, probably by Monger, and that the dog, Sparky, is missing. At the same time, Lenny discovers the dead body of Sparky hidden in the settee.
Eleni, who has returned home after her mother's death, learns about Hector and Rosa by way of a drawing Hector has done, and immediately leaves him. Hector, feeling terrible, decides to go up to Blackpool again, only to find that his parents are more or less losing their minds. A call comes to the house from Lenny, telling Hector that Kirk has died. Later in the night, another call comes to the house, this time from Monger, threatening Hector. Back in London, he decides to stalk Monger. He sneaks into Monger's home, finds his mother's stolen money, and then heads home, where he finds Lenny and Rosa dead. When Monger shows up at Hector's flat, Hector manages to steal his gun and kill him. The novel closes with Hector in prison, his parents dead, and his only visitor Bianca.
Best part of story, including ending:
I really liked this novel because despite being a bit mental, Hector seems entirely like a real person you might go down the pub with, but in the same way, he also seems almost uncomfortably like myself, and other people I know, at times.
Best scene in story:
The best scene, in my opinion, is when Hector storms over to Lenny's house, completely drunk, and is overly critical of Lenny's newest art piece. I'm never able to forget the part where Lenny accuses Hector of "insulting" him. Hector's response is, of course, an insult that follows up an earlier insult (Lenny had said that he doesn't "...come round to your place and tell you how to mix your colours." to which Hector had responded, "That's cos you wouldn't have a clue.") Hector further insults Lenny by asking repeatedly, and a bit belligerently, how exactly he has insulted him, before wondering, "Was it just now when I said you couldn't mix paint?"
Opinion about the main character:
I like the most that even when Hector doesn't seem to like someone, he still seems to really love them. He has a habit of saying that he "loves how someone makes an effort" that I think is really quite nice.