This review is from: How to Marry the Dead (Paperback)
It's a page-turner. Easy to read. A place and time easy to picture - due, in part, to the clarity of the prose, yet also, to those having experienced the late seventies in the UK, due to the reader's bank of memories casting their own light. This hints at perhaps the shortcomings of the novel. I felt it descriptively lacking in places and the dimensions of the predicament not fully explored or exposed. Perhaps too great a demand for a novel aiming at black humour... Though I have to confess, I failed to experience the 'laugh out loud' moments of other reviewers.
The tale is actually rather dreary and unredemptive. The lead protagonist, the bereaved mother, suitably unhinged and alienated by the loss of her daughter, fails to overcome her innate disinterest in her remaining daughter, and strikes a distinctly cold and unreflective pose throughout. It's, ultimately, a pessimistic and dismissive portrayal of humanity under the strain of grief and loss. The entire family unable to communicate the minimum of sentiment or fellow-feeling. The bereaved father a sitcom cliche of macho repression and the stiff-upper. The daughter playfully distracted, insouciant. All resulting finally, of course, in the regulation familial breakdown.
Next, jarringly, a belated 18 years later, an unconvincing family reunion of sorts results in a cod farewell ceremony for the deceased daughter, hugely contrived. The new circumstances wedged urgently into place like misfitting jigsaw pieces, reveal a haphazard and improbable picture of a completely disconnected family of oddballs, all now strangely fulfilled by their own unique trajectories. It descends into a silly climax, where for me, each character implodes in utter implausibility.