Most helpful critical review
on 10 March 2013
Three and a Half Stars. Quite entertaining.
Ignoring the staggeringly over-zealous hype surrounding Mr Mills' novels, this is a mildly entertaining first-person description of a holiday outing to the Lakes which takes a turn for the odd. Not "insanely, psychedelically weird" but just a little odd. The writing style is casual and laid back-to the point of turning into a blog entry with grammar an optional extra. (I admit that my grammar is not of the highest order, but I am not a professional writer charging for writing this review!) The characters are entertainingly described but are never fleshed out as the narrator drifts from one set-piece "happening" to the next.
I was expecting "Darkly Surreal" and was presented with "faintly unsettling" - consider the slightly odd feeling you get when a dog stares at you in a strange fashion. I would have preferred it had the dog started tap-dancing and singing show-tunes.
Expectations were of Flann O'Brien while the result was more Alan Bennet. Not necessarily a bad thing and, overall, this very slim volume kept me entertained for a couple of hours.
Other reviewers have mentioned a twist at the end. Don't wait with bated breath. The end is telegraphed fairly obviously from the first quarter of the book, trundling on to its inevitable climax. My personal opinion is that this inevitability was, after all, the point of the story. Ah well, each reader sees every novel in a different light.
The critical reviews of a novel would not normally make up any part of a further book review but, in this case, they cannot be ignored as they make up the first six pages (yes, SIX PAGES) of the the rather slim paperback edition which I purchased.
The over-effusive and cloying tone of the critics' gushing praise has the feel of the annual book critics' orgy of brown-nosing and mutual pleasuring which accompanies the run-up to the Booker Prize shortlist. I would suspect that, had Mr Mills' first novel not been put forward for the Booker, then the critics might have been considerably less voluble and fawning in their praise for "All Quiet..."
I would recommend to any potential purchasers that they read this book before wading through the newspaper reviews. This will save a good half-hour of tedium as a vast number of self-appointed worthies take fawning condescension to new levels as they compete to outdo each other in an ever-escalating battle of sycophantic prose. Following this you WILL be expecting The Greatest Story Ever Told and no novel could live up to this.
Judge the novel on its own merits rather than reading critical reviews and you won't be disappointed.
*Oh, and to any Fanboys who might feel they must flame me for daring not to give 5 stars - please - go away and get a life.