This first novel is an intimate, introspective account of a young girl - a life model - coming to terms with the sudden death of her artist brother. "Write what you know" - isn't that the classic advice given to first-time authors? In a way, Strachan seems to have done just that. The pubs and art student scene of Glasgow must be her home turf - the way she writes about them rings true. As for the feelings of grief... that all seemed convincing as well. Then again, in other ways Strachan is out on thin ice. One of the more dramatic storylines seemed very far-fetched, while the deux-ex-machina figure appearing at the end is just... naaah. Even though the slight gaucheness of her prose is probably deliberate, it does make the book more trivial than it need be. Couldn't it have been edited a bit more ruthlessly? By recording the minutiae of life, Strachan is probably aiming to describe how fragile these small things are in the face of grief - and in the hands of a more skilful stylist, this technique could have been very effective. I'm thinking of Alan Warner, of Gwendoline Riley... But Strachan just doesn't have that special something that makes us see the world differently. You know what I mean - the voice, the unexpected turn of phrase. She does a good job of drawing us in to the book and I was never really bored, but a book needs a bit of flair to be a great read! In the end, "Negative Space" doesn't have anything startlingly original to say, or a startlingly original way of saying it.
The book started well, with the young narrators' grief stricken life in Glasgow, coupled with multiple flashbacks, giving us a rich and rewarding read, but then the narrator leaves for an artists' retreat and the story simply degenerates into something akin to the proverbial damp squib (quite apt considering the weather depicted in the area of Scotland the lack-of-action takes place!). I'm not berating the writer's quality of prose, as that is fine and well structured, but very little seems to happen and the last third of the book simply drags. I was hoping for more from the very promising beginnings, but was left somewhat unaffected by the end of the novel.
The basic premise of Strachans novel is not the type of fiction I would normally read, but the ease with which one associates with the main character is amazing, after reading the first twenty pages I am with her stumbling from the funeral, drinking in the grimey train station bar. There are many cliches in this novel, but don't let the blurb put you off. Strachen handles them superbly and does not fall into any of the usual ruts. I could go on about this this novel, but the greatest compliment I can give is that it has made me miss a tube stop more than once, and if anything can keep me on London transport longer than neccesary, it must be good! Beg, borrow, steal, or buy a copy, your life will be better for it.
I just came across this book in the library, having heard nothing about the writer. The back sounded interesting enough so i took it home. But what a gem! Really well written and with great insight. This sort of grief must have happened to the writer, or she has done a lot of research. And it's not just sad: it's funny as well! Don't "listen" to the previous reviewer: just give it a go. if you don't like it, nothing lost, but I reckon a lot of people will.
This novel engrossed me from the second I picked it up. I defy anyone to read it in more than two sittings at the most. A strong voice and universal storyline, a cool literary theme about the separation between mind and body. . . Can't wait for the next offering from Zoe Strachan!