3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A tedious read,
This review is from: Ask Alice (Paperback)
I bought this book at a recent literary festival attended by D.J.Taylor and his wife Rachel Hore. She was giving a creative writing workshop and as his name never appeared under Speakers I can only assume that he was also involved with the writing class. And this was the feel the book had for me - more of a writing exercise than a novel I would read for pleasure. I felt he would have been better suited to writing short stories as there were spurts of interest along the way, but added together this novel became hard work. It took me nearly 2 weeks to read and I only finished because I had to lead the discussion at our reading group.
The central character is Alice, a teenage orphan from Kansas City, travelling to live with relatives in Bellevue. When the train breaks down en route she agrees to accompany Drouett, a salesman she had been talking to on the train, for dinner at a nearby hotel. She never re-boards the train. This sounds like a potential opening for an exciting story, but no, it is just one of many unexplained episodes in this novel. Eventually she makes her way to England by boat but we are never told why or how.
In a parallel story, that skips back and forth in time in relation to Alice's movements, we meet Ralph, also seemingly orphaned, who lives in a large mansion with servants and an elderly lady. When the lady dies he ends up with "Uncle", the brother of one of the servants, who strangely takes on the role of father to a boy he has never previously met. I'd already had enough and I was only 1/3 through the book.
Some interesting character deescriptions but I lost interest in their motives well before the end, which was also an anticlimax.
Witin our book group five of us had finished this and the score out of 5 was unanimously 2 to 3.