Top critical review
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Well written but ghastly
on 4 May 2002
I was introduced to Joanne Harris through Blackberry Wine which I thought was a wonderful novel, the sort that didn't leave my hand until I'd finished it. Five Quarters is a different kind of book entirely. The writing is still wonderful (even if you can have too much of a good thing with all that syrupy, sticky, sensual food imagery. I hope that Harris and Nigella Lawson never collaborate on a book!) but the character are a truly awful bunch and while I could raise sympathy for some of them, I couldn't like any of them and was very glad to say goodbye at the end of the book. The story itself moves through its stages like the slow, lazy, ominous stirrings of 'Old Mother' in the depths of the Loire. Boise is certainly not like any nine year old I have ever encountered. The way she behaves seems much older. Many authors stumble over portraying children with the correct nuances and psychology for their ages and Harris in my opinion definitely comes a cropper here. All that plotting and slyness with the orange peel smacks of adult subterfuge beyond the capability of a nine year old girl, even one mature enough to menstruate (very precocious indeed, especially 60 years ago and one of the elements that had me trying too hard to suspend my reader disbelief)
This is a disquieting, claustrophobic novel and although the ending is redemptive, the whole definitely left a nasty taste in the mouth of this reader!