Top critical review
8 people found this helpful
Strange but likeable
on 1 December 2009
This is rather an odd book. It doesn't seem to know what it wants to be and the plot runs all over the place and at varying speeds. Sometimes it drags over nothing very much and then a seemingly vital episode is rushed along too quickly. The main character is Lawrence and most of the narrative is devoted to him but he's rather a closed book, difficult to understand and therefore to empathise with. It starts out well enough as the unfortunate man is accused of murder but then that story is rushed to a hasty conclusion in the course of an early chapter and suddenly we are off on a free Carribbean cruise (handy!) surrounded by a plethora of frankly bizarre characters none of whom are explored in any depth so we don't really care about them either. A great deal of time (too much?) is spent on the cruise to very little effect and then that storyline is rushed to a rapid end too following an unlikely run-in with a tiger!
After that we are spun off into several little threads; the murder plot makes an unexpected re-appearance, an unsuccesful attempt is made to flesh out the wife and mother characters and there are a couple of highly unlikely co-incidences that take quite a bit of swallowing. I wasn't at all surprised to read an interview where the author admits to not really following any kind of plan in this book - he just let the characters do what they wanted to do!
Despite all this, I did enjoy 'Tree Surgery'. Patrick Gale is capable of writing with a delicious wit that is sometimes not very evident in his more 'serious' works. Here, I believe his tongue is very often firmly in his cheek - at least, I hope so...surely no-one could have created a character like Lala and expect her to be taken seriously! Ultimately though, it is let down by its characters and a lack of warmth. Tragic things happen in this book and yet they pass for nothing, we don't care because everything and everyone is so thinly drawn - a pity!