Top critical review
One person found this helpful
on 1 February 2015
The two "narrative strands" are not so much strands as jumps from one uninteresting scenario to another.The prettily polished details gain the novel a star, but a few pretty flowers don't make a magic forest. Every character is eccentric, but lack the magnificent eccentricity of Dickens' grotesques. Also there is no plot to keep us interested in the progress of the novel. Even the main characters have screws loose, which would be fine if they showed some evidence of developing into people you'd actually want to know. But no, the only ongoing revelations of character are descriptions of more irritating eccentricities. The greatest eccentric, Oscar's father, is a promising character, but is soon left behind for a series of forgettable weirdos. In fact, Carey stole this character from the great Victorian writer Edmund Gosse, whose real-life father was a marine biologist and member of the Plymouth Brethren. His biographical work "Father & Son" is much funnier and much deeper than this tedious romp.
P.S. I also found it a great wrong to find George Eliot dragged into the story and made to look small-minded. Try reading Middlemarch, which makes Carey's effort look small and trivial.