Top critical review
2 people found this helpful
A wasted opportunity
on 24 September 2015
I started this with high hopes having very much enjoyed McCleen's debut The Land of Decoration. However it was really, really hard to read. Someone's obviously complimented the author on her skill with description because the slightest thing has a very overblown description, which is a real shame as it detracts from the plot which is slim yet interesting, about a professor recovering from brain cancer who goes to visit her old college and mentor. I really struggled maintaining any interest in the story when the sighting of seals, for instance, which could be beautifully summed up in a few words, is strung out into a long and tedious paragraph:
"... the silky heads, the curved bodies that looked human, at the silver coils which spread like oil on the water and went on spreading, like hair, that looked just the way her mother's hair did when she swam in the sea..."
Any one of these would have worked beautifully on its own, but it's like putting cream, ice cream, maple syrup and honey on top of a trifle. Too much.
The next few paragraphs are all description as well, and the story lost any power it had for me. It felt like the book was a showcase for McCleen's knowledge of poetry and poets (which was interesting to a degree, as I love poetry) and of words (ditto). I was desperate for it to be over and stopped caring about what happened to anyone in it. What a shame!