Top critical review
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A great writer just going through the motions
on 28 June 2001
I have found it fascinating reading through the posted reviews of Grasshopper. I love many of her earlier books, which are psychological thrillers at their very best. Books like A Dark Adapted Eye, The Chimney Sweeper's Boy and The Keys to the Street have plot twists which blow you away but at the same time create an atmosphere which lingers in your mind for weeks afterwards. With such masterpieces behind her, I just couldn't believe how poor Grasshopper was. There is, in effect, no plot. Of course BV is a brilliant writer but at times even her incredible skill cannot disguise the fact that she is, simply, word-spinning -- creating background and events which contribute absolutely nothing. There is literally page after page of concocted and pointless detail. The characters are not just thin, they are also positively irritating, esp. the dumb Liv: God, one just wants her to go roof-climbing so that she will fall off! The Johnny character is laughable -- Graham Greene meets The Young Ones. As for Prof. Max and his Ladies... words fail me.
By about p. 200 I started skimming because it was pretty clear it was going nowhere. Like others who have posted, I *sort* of finished it to see what happened. One problem is the grotesque length -- I do think BV at her best is concise, 250-300 pp. max. Like many other contemporary novelists, she seems to be writing more and more, which is not a good idea. Recently I abandoned Martin Amis's London Fields, another massive vol. which was also going nowhere, another attempt to 'get under the skin' of present-day London, and like Grasshopper comprising nothing but thinly portrayed and disagreeable characters.
This was a truly awful book and one must hope that BV gets on form again -- shorter books would surely be a good start.