Most helpful positive review
30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
A compelling and challenging novel
on 17 March 2002
"The Gingerbread Woman" clearly demonstrates Jennifer Johnston's experience as a consummate storyteller. She deals compassionately with the difficult themes of death and disease, weaving a surprisingly fast paced (very little actually happens) and compelling narrative. The characters are carefully crafted and though the reader may not like either of the main characters in their often self-indulgent pity and grief, Johnston nonetheless makes their lives both accessible and commanding of the reader's attention.
This would be a great book for any book club to discuss, as there are plenty of moral questions raised. Set in Ireland and New York, the novel provides a careful commentary on the question of adultery and lust and raises the idea of the responsibilities of terrorists. Both difficult concepts are dealt with sympathetically by Johnston, leaving the reader with no easy answers.
The narrative is very clever, with the novelist within the novel exploring her past whilst coming to terms with her present. Johnson's description of the past and the passionate love affair is wonderfully evocative and maintains the reader's interest.
The end of the novel is a little frustrating; another book club debate could revolve around when the reader guesses the outcome! And I was also a little dissatisfied with the moral message of adultery leading to heartache and ultimately punishment for the protagonist. Nonetheless this is a beautifully written book; I read it in one sitting and thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing. Having never encountered Johnson before I will certainly search out her other novels as both her style and her themes provide the reader with food for thought, an element sadly lacking in a number of recent best sellers.