Some Beautiful Descriptions, But Where's the Plot?,
This review is from: Me and the Fat Man (Paperback)
Myerson tackles some of her regular themes, including strange cravings and emotional detachment, in this rather creepy, very short novel. Amy is a young waitress, living in Bath with a husband she does not love. She is haunted by memories of her mother, who drowned off the coast of the Greek island Eknos when Amy was six, and of her horrible time in foster care. Her experiences have made her cold and distant, and her one real pleasure in life seems to be picking up men in a local park and offering them sexual services. Then one day she meets Harris, a strange man who claims to have known her mother, and Amy when she was small. Harris introduces her to his overweight, shy and sweet lodger Gary, and soon (for what reason we are never told) Amy and Gary are having an intense affair. This has unforeseen consequences, including a birth and a death that prompts Amy to return to Eknos and find out the truth about her mother's final months.
Myerson has a good and original writing style, and some of her descriptions of Bath (though not always accurate) were stunning, likewise the few passages where she allowed herself to describe Eknos. She's good on the potency of memory as well. But apart from admiring her skill as a descriptive writer I wasn't drawn into this book at all. Myerson seemed to have no interest in her characters' motivation, or in rounding out their personalities. Amy was (even more than Tess in 'Something Might Happen') a strangely passive character - Myerson claims she writes about strong women, but the two examples of her work I've read so far have female protagonists who seem half asleep. Amy's only emotions seemed to be lust and a vague distaste for life and her husband. Myerson seemed completely uninterested in working out why she'd married her husband if she hated him so much, why she was so drawn to Gary and what she was hoping to get out of her earnings from her secret trade. Harris was so mysterious as to be practically a non-character, and it was a real let-down that we never found out anything about his motivation (for just about everything). Gary was incredibly bland and I didn't believe his big secret, that had led him to become practically Harris's slave, for one moment - nor could I work out why he seemed to love Amy so much, as she was so colourless. The story of the dead mother could have been powerful but was very underdeveloped. And it was odd how little actually happened in the book (apart from the sudden drama which propelled Amy back to Eknos) - long sections of the novel were just rather loveless descriptions of intercourse (Myerson has a habit for making this seem particularly unappealing, and it's interesting to see that she revisits similar themes so often!) or very flat going-nowhere dialogues. By contrast, the dramatic final scenes, involving a bag containing something terrible (about which the heroine remarked in a blase way 'the bag was beginning to niff a bit'), a minor attack on a lusty Greek and the revelation of Gary's secret just seemed melodramatic. Ultimately, apart from the rather obvious message that 'Amy and Gary were damaged people' I couldn't work out the point of the novel at all.
The sad thing for me was that some of the descriptive language made me feel that Myerson is actually (potentially at least) a really good writer. I just wish she'd concentrate more on the complexity of her characters, and perhaps make some of them more sympathetic. The writing in this novel particularly proclaims Myerson's need to tell us constantly what a 'dark' and 'experimental' writer she is, rather than actually exploring interesting characters and themes.
Not recommended, though I've bought some other of Myerson's novels (which look more substantial) and will certainly give them a try.