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Customer Review

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Porridge and jam, 15 Dec. 2013
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This review is from: The Testament of Mary (Paperback)
As you probably know, this is a short book. It was long-listed for the Booker despite being approximately 30,000 words long. No problem if they're the right words.

Unfortunately, for this reader, rather a lot of the 30,000 words seemed superfluous. How can this be? Surely an author of Toibin's standing, with Penguin as his publisher and supplying his highly-skilled editor, would not have let this happen? Well, IMHO, they have. The first 6,000 (or so) words I found to be, frankly, uninteresting internal waffling by the eponymous Mary: the last 4,000 a wearisome reprise of the waffle at the beginning.

The book begins at the bottom of p23 and ends at the bottom of page 93. Between those two points it is marvellous, and I consumed it at a sitting, agog. Thus I am very pleased that I slogged on and finally left the porridge behind and got to the jam in the middle.

But why the looong intro and scarcely less long outro? perhaps Toibin and Penguin suffer from the same problem as the rest of us: a story has an intrinsic length, which is not necessarily a saleable length. So, how to publish material that is less than book length? Even if a volume of short stories was mooted (Toibin's name would make this a viable project) I quite see that the strength of the 20,000 words in the middle of this story could overpower such a collection. I also quite see that the Booker people are keen to give the prize to Toibin, to whom it is definitely due for the body of his work. But in 2013 he was not robbed. In truth, I am surprised that he made it to the long list.
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