12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Unexploded (Hardcover)
Oh dear: here I go again with a fairly negative review. Let me tell you of my reading preferences.
Of nineteenth century literature, I am a huge fan of Thomas Hardy, and also like Trollope and Austen. My favourite reads from the twentieth century are Joseph Conrad, Elizabeth Taylor, Graham Greene and Virginia Woolf. More recently, I have enjoyed the writings of Per Petterson, Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro and Tracy Chevalier. Hardy is my number one.
All of these authors make wonderful use of the English language. Their descriptive passages are always relevant and succinct, effective and sumptuous. Alison Macleod has written such passages in 'Unexploded'. Unfortunately she has written too many; some, particularly in the first 100 pages, with such ridiculous similes, that they actually detract from the narrative. You don't need to be too wordy to be worthy.
And then there's that other distraction, the bane of many a modern novel, the disrupted time line. I don't mind doing some work in a novel - often I enjoy it for just that - but when it interrupts a flow, it can be both annoying and confusing. The additional device of chopping and changing, within a chapter, between one scene of action and another is similarly frustrating.
This novel never really gets to grips with either its subject matter or its characters. There are too many irrelevancies: the lives of the son, Philip, and his friends; the red herring of the green capsules; the butcher. Yet we don't learn enough about the internment camp, or the character of Otto Godlove.
There is plenty of period detail, and Alison has obviously done her homework, but there is sometimes too much, especially in the form of lists. But some of 'Unexploded', particularly the middle section, is beautifully written. What she needed was for one of the friends whom she thanks, or the publishers, to point out the faults, and help her to edit. It continues to annoy me that modern authors feel they have to list their mentors, especially when they have not criticised enough. If authors give thanks at all it should be to their readers: thank you for buying my book, I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much/ more as/than I have in writing it.
On a personal note, if Alison read this review, I am the man who your mate (author) Ray Robinson photographed with your book in a pub in Matlock. If you print off the photo', you can take it down to your local and throw darts at it.
I will never write a novel as good as 'Unexploded', but my critical gaze is first rate. Good luck with the next one!