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Wonderful characterisations, but ultimatey its worst crime was for not living up to my own expectations
on 17 August 2016
I had this book on my Kindle for a while - I bought it at some point, for some reason - I don't know what. As such I didn't know the plot when I fired it up recently, I just dove in and went for it.
I don't have a huge frame of literally reference so some people may baulk at the comparison - but initially the style reminded me of David Mitchell, in particular books like Black Swan Green. Both authors have an uncanny way of inhabiting the voices of their characters and giving them so much life, but also a sense of just things being 'off', something unsettling lying underneath the story and you want to pick away and find out what.
The main character, Bessie, is just simply wonderful. I found myself laughing out loud many times at her phrases or her wry observations. A lot of the terms I knew from my grandmother, but my Kindle dictionary was also welcome for the Irish and Scottish words I didn't understand!
I tore through the first half of the book but ultimately that’s when things started to get unstuck. The book went from delightful and funny to very serious.
I can’t begrudge a book wanting to be a drama, and introducing that drama… but I had got attached to the characters and found the shift quite hard.
As dialogue between characters dried up, it then started to delve more into exposition. It is already written as the character’s first person view, but then at one point she’s explaining something that another character said, talking about something that had happened in the past when it was already told retrospectively… it all got very insular.
A book that I felt was opening me to a world, then felt mired in its narrative.
The plot then got more predictable… whereas I was genuinely kept off balance at various points in the first half wondering what happened, a ‘twist’ towards the end is so obvious and any surprise had gone.
I was hoping that the story would lighten up, bring back the humour and dare I say have a ‘happy ending’, but there really wasn’t any to speak of. I came away thinking that they weren’t so much flawed characters, as flawed bad characters – which is such a shame after the early character building.
The worst thing the author did was make me care about these characters so much, then put them through hell and make them less likeable.