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Convalescence for the Doctor?
on 17 February 2015
The Doctor, Amy and Rory find themselves staying at a convalescence home in late eighteenth century Italy. But how did they end up there and are the residents really recovering?
It soon becomes apparent that this book is a bit different from most Doctor Who novels. It takes a fairly unique approach of relaying events through a series of letters, diary entries and recollections. This allows the story to be told from different perspectives. Thus things are, perhaps, not always as they seem as they are based upon individual perceptions. It also allows for three different styles of writing that reflect the various characters. Maria’s letters are clearly the words of a sensible but frightened aristocratic child that still looks on the world with wonder. Her letters allow her to become a very endearing character. In contrast Bloom’s diary entries are proper and reserved but littered with increasing adult concerns and paranoia. The neurosis he increasingly exhibits helps to make his character sympathetic, making him more a victim than a villain. Amy’s recollections are blunt and honest and very much in character.
As interesting as this style is to start with it does become a little repetitive as the novel progresses and begins to work less well. For the uncertainty and mystery in the earlier half it works brilliantly, adding to the atmosphere and confusion. Once what is happening becomes more apparent the book has to rely on action more and its format doesn’t lend itself well to this. It also takes some suspension of belief to think that the characters had the time or the inclination in the middle of some events to sit down and write about them. The text is not all retrospective. Furthermore, once things start to be revealed the approach slowly stops disguising that the plot is, perhaps, a little bland and that not a great deal actually happens.
The character of the Doctor is quite vague in the book. To be fair this is partly the effect of the plot machinations. But even when this stage has passed the Eleventh Doctor’s character doesn’t quite come out. Rory’s character also suffers as the novel tends to only concentrate on the moodier, frustrated or envious sides of his character. He appears to have very little liking for the Doctor in this book. Amy is drawn brilliantly though. Her personality and thought patterns are beautifully presented through the system of her re-collections.
The novel’s role in this ‘History Collection’ is a little questionable. It definitely has a historical setting but it doesn’t focus on historical events at all. There is some talk concerning the future rise of Napoleon but this isn’t particularly relevant unless Boris is to take Napoleon’s place in history. There is a suggestion of this in the novel but it doesn’t seem a likely circumstance. The general storyline could easily take place in any type of convalescence home in any period.
Full credit for an original and very intriguing approach. However, when the novelty fades the story tails off a bit and interest wanes.