3 of 10 people found the following review helpful
A book that needs to make up its mind,
This review is from: The Irresistible Inheritance Of Wilberforce (Paperback)If this had been written by a 14-year-old I would have thought that this novel is very good. As it stands, I think that it is half-baked with ideas above its station in the hands of a writer that does not have the skills to bring out the best of it.
I have not read Salmon Fishing in the Yeman so am not sure how this compares, but I doubt if that would have had much bearing on my opinions as this simply does not stand up by itself. None of the component parts of this hang together in any way and doesn't seem to be underpinned by an understanding of what is being written about. The sections about the "other world" of Ed Simmonds and his aristocratic background had the feeling of a child slopping around in its mother's high heels. I suspect Torday had read a bit of Mitford/Waugh/Wodehouse and thought he had it covered; he looks like far more of an arriviste than Wilberforce ever does.
All this is compounded by some howling factual errors. We find out in the 2002 "vintage" that Wilberforce is 34 years old, which means he was 16 in either 1984 or 1983. In the same chapter he says that he got an A* in GCSE maths. A*s were introduced in 1994 and the first sitting of GCSEs were in summer 1988. So we can either deduce from this that Wilberforce is in some way deluded or Torday doesn't check his facts and neither do all the people at his publishers whose hands this would have also passed through. Perhaps Torday is playing some Beckettian trick on the reader? All I have to say to that is: leave it to the master.
Furthermore, Torday does not seem to understand the difference between fostering and adoption. When Wilberforce expresses an interest in going to university to his foster father the latter says "bringing you up has been a considerable financial burden." If you foster children this is not the case as you are paid by either a local authority or an agency to look after the child (often not an inconsiderable sum). Furthermore, his father's grumble "...I suppose you expect me to pay for your maintenance [at university] do you?" again would not be an issue if he was a foster parent as legally children do not have to be placed after 16 so Wilberforce would not be their responsibility. If Wilberforce was adopted then the people he refers to as his foster parents would in fact be his parents having full responsibility and receiving no money from the state.
This novel has sophisticated pretensions which are not pulled off at any level. Don't bother with it.