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3.0 out of 5 stars The Book about The Girl, 23 Nov. 2011
This review is from: The Girl (Paperback)
In the small and sleepy Goan village of Azul The Girl has drowned in the sea and and nobody seems very surprised. Azul is known to people throughout the area as the Village of the Dead and The Girl is just the latest to give her body to the perpetuation of the village's tragic reputation. Three men are tied to her story - the priest who buried her and the two men who each loved her and each of whom she loved in return in her own way.

One man is Simon, owner of the town's shop, a man with ambitions to have a cafe and not just shelves of dull out of date produce. The other is Luke, a traveller passing through, capturing The Girl's heart before moving on again.

The book flips around between past and present and between narrators. In the second half of this small volume, the two men find The Girl's diary, hidden away where she knew Simon would know to look for it, and the diary reveals and helps the men to unpeel the layers of her past and reveal her reason to kill herself.

I bought 'The Girl' when I was on holiday in India and I read it not too far from the place it was set. I like to read books in situ if I can but I wasn't able to reconcile her Goa with the one I could see. I bought it because I had so loved Sonia Faleiro's non-fiction book 'Beautiful Thing' about the Mumbai dance bar girls that I was hunting for her only work of fiction. As a writer of non-fiction she's outstanding but in The Girl she seemed to struggle to find the fluency she has when writing fact.

It's very definitely not at all an Indian style of writing - you could be forgiven for thinking it's set in South or Central America rather than the sub-continent. 'The Girl' sometimes reads like a novel created in a creative writing class to illustrate someone else's way of writing rather than a novel delivered from the heart.

The pictures of the village and its people are painted in what sometimes felt to me like too much detail. In places they were perfect - the descriptions shimmering off the page with the Indian heat or the people leaping off the page with believability and vibrancy. But when the same over-the-top treatment is given to every place, person and minor event, the power diminishes very quickly. I read somewhere that one way to tell when people are lying is that they use too many verbs. I suspect when a writer is uncomfortable with their work they use too many adjectives and too much detail. You might imagine given this wordiness that the book is a big one, something you'll need to develop muscles to carry around but you'd be wrong. The Girl is only 124 pages long but sadly it 'felt' a lot longer. Had it not been written by a writer I admire and respect I would have given up within the first fifty pages but I slogged on through, occasionally enjoying the colourful local characters but never really feeling that I understood any of the key characters, particularly The Girl herself. Once I learned of why she killed herself, I couldn't help thinking it was a really bad reason to take your life.

Sonia Faleiro is a wonderful writer but this isn't a wonderful book. I think every author should be forgiven for a bad first novel and 'The Girl' won't put me off wanting to read anything and everything that she writes in future.
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The Girl
The Girl by Sonia Faleiro (Paperback - 14 Feb. 2008)
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