3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: The World Was All Before Them (Paperback)
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I was attracted to this book because I'd enjoyed David Mitchell's 'Cloud Atlas' - books about interconnectedness usually interest me. However, I began to have doubts about my ability to finish it at the top of page 2. The problem is the prose. The second sentence lasts for a full seventeen lines of print - never a good sign, unless of course you are James Joyce and can do without punctuation altogether. This wasn't experimental internal monologue, either - just a long, boring and wordy description of a man driving a car.
This exploration of the lives of Doctor Philip and his partner, Art Curator Sue never really rises above that level. Everything is hyper-realised, not in spare, punchy prose but via long, self-indulgent escapades into sheer verbiage that leave the reader with a nasty case of mental indigestion. Every image, every event is imagined and catalogued to the nth degree until any power it might once have had has had all the life squashed out of it. I'm afraid that in my case the effects were similarly terminal. I bailed out on page fifty-five, in the midst of a particularly nasty (and equally wordy) description of a woman's cancer-ravaged body.
The book isn't rubbish. It probably has some valuable things to say about life, if you get to the end. But it points up a basic problem with books about boredom and emptiness - the danger that the the writing will produce similar feelings in the reader. It's not an easy thing to pull off - and here, the more the writer threw himself into the exercise of his style, the more spectacularly it failed for me.