15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars
A lot of potential, unfulfilled, 2 Sep 2012
I don't normally write online reviews, as I'm aware of how different people's reactions to a text can be, and I wouldn't want to encourage/discourage anyone with different taste to my own. However, I feel like I needed to review this book as I felt so misled by its packaging and premise. The idea behind this novel is inspired; the vintage photography, the exploration of the impact of WW2 on rural Wales which is hardly ever explored, and hints at the supernatural. Not to mention, the cover and formatting is stunning.
Unfortunately, every positive aspect I was looking forward to going in is set way out of proportion: the photographs are completely forced, as though the author began with a set of images he liked and loosely strung a tenuous story around them, making them feel cheap and meaningless.
Furthermore, his views on Wales and the Welsh are embarrassingly misguided and poorly researched, particularly the attempt at local dialect - several times I was cringing so much I had to stop reading, the WW2 dialogue read like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins. To give a brief example, a Welsh village he visits in *2011* has one land-line phone on the entire island. It's ridiculous. The tone of arrogance is painful to read; "aren't these Europeans quaint and backward, with their petrol generators and their drinking problems?". If Riggs has ever visited Wales or even the UK he does a great job of hiding it.
Lastly, what writing flair he shows in the beginning (and there is some, I liked the dialogue between Jacob and his "red neck" friend) evaporates as the book becomes over-logged with unnecessary characters (an excuse to use more photographs) and conveniently nonsensical attempts at final twists (I won't spoil anything but if you've read it you'll know what I'm talking about).
By all means, I can see where the appeal lies if you aren't looking for something too taxing (and I don't mean that to sound judgemental at all). I just wish Riggs could go back and spend some more time on this, do some more research, cultivate some more sophisticated plot points, kill off about half of his underdeveloped characters and start again. Because this has the potential to be great, it just isn't.