Reading Dreaming Iris was a dismal experience. I would judge the book's many failings to include: shallow, stereotypical and unconvincing characters for whom one cares very little; a central theme about unrequited love which is often returned to but never satisfactorily explored; poor control of the first person voice revealing thoughts and motives that could not be known; lack of a sense of period - or indeed of a sense of reality when a whip is produced at one point; a style which is all `tell' and no `show'; a plethora of detail (Catholicism, the layout of Sweynesend, murky goings-on in America, a large cast list of friends and family ...) which is draped onto the story but leads nowhere.
There's more but life is short.
I can't reconcile my view of the book with any of the glowing reviews in national publications which I came across before and after reading it. I begin to wonder if some of them are hasty affairs supplied by 'friends of the author'.
For instance, the Spectator's reviewer writes "By the time the story gets under weigh ...". Not very impressive spelling.
And the reviewer in the Independent writes "Occasionally you read a novel by an author who you know instinctively loves books; someone who has read widely and lovingly, and cares so much for every word he or she commits to paper that the end result will never leave you." Is it instinct? Or is it the fact that the author of Dreaming Iris is known to run a much respected independent bookshop in London?
The common approach in the reviews I saw was to provide an extended outline of the plot in order - I guess - to leave far less space to try and justify why Dreaming Iris is a masterpiece.
Do I seem cheated and a little angry? I am. The book was drivel.