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Writing by Numbers
on 5 July 2011
Kingsolver knows how to put a sentence together, and her heart is absolutely in the right place. She is in favour of everything that, in my view, conduces to both human and ecological health: a rational approach to farming and game management; free sexual expression; gender equality; you name it. But those good intentions are precisely the problem. Every character has to stand for something, and although they still manage to persuade as 'possible human beings' (ie rounded characters) their function in resolving the plot to good moral effect is just too transparent. I found myself wishing the sweet, ornery old lady would get run over by an artic, or that the earthy, maturely-sexy game warden would sneak off for a McDonalds. I'm basically an embarrassingly ingenuous reader, but even I knew exactly how it would end by about half way through.
And those well-crafted sentences start to irritate after a while, too. They're just too lush, too perfectly lyrical. An irruption of Irvine Welsh comes to seem welcome after a few hundred pages of humming bees, vivid colours and drifting woodsmoke. So if you think you'd like an extremely skilled but relentlessly right-on novel - knock yourself out! But if you prefer to encounter something 'other', something recalcitrant that slaps your assumptions about a bit, look elsewhere.