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Customer Review

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read, but not her best, 20 April 2013
This review is from: Various Pets Alive and Dead (Paperback)
I've read and enjoyed Lewycka's previous books and was really looking forward to this one, but it doesn't quite deliver. It's still a good read and I would recommend it, but I found the ending rather unsatisfactory, and it left me feeling vaguely like I'd been mislead and then let down.

The good news is that Lewycka has improved tremendously as a writer. Her style is easy to read without being simple, she writes convincingly about things that you are pretty sure she can't really know THAT much about, and she knows how to tell a story so that you want to keep turning the pages.

And, for most of the time, this book doesn't disappoint. It is written in three intertwining threads, from the points of view of three different characters - a mother and her son and daughter. And this is very well done, with just enough left unexplained, but, at the same time, little nuggets of explanation scattered just often enough to keep you turning the pages.

In this way the story progresses nicely, both amusing you and keeping you interested, as the pace and complexity gradually builds up to (hopefully) a climax. Except that it doesn't. And this is the real disappointment with this book. There is an ending, a bringing together of threads, of sorts, but it left me both confused about what exactly had happened (and why!) and feeling unsatisfied that I'd lived with that story for so long, only to find some of my questions still unanswered.

She also includes a sort of epilogue, written from the perspective of a fourth character (the father/husband) who has only appeared on the periphery of the story until then. This could have been a very nice touch, a chance to tie up the loose ends as he looks back over how things ended, and a chance for a surprisingly different take on what happened. But, unfortunately, it doesn't really work. This epilogue just adds to the confusion, and it is so brief and confusing it makes the ending even less satisfactory, when (presumably) it was intended to do the very opposite.

One other comment - I didn't find it as funny as her previous books. I very rarely find myself laughing out loud at books that are described as `laugh out loud', but I do at least usually find them pretty funny and occasionally do embarrass myself on the train or bus. But I think I actually only laughed once with this book, and most of the rest of the time I didn't find it particularly amusing. Indeed there are one or two places where it feels like she is rather too desperately trying to write comic farce, and she just doesn't pull it off (which is a pity, because we know she can do it).

But, all in all, a mostly good read, and well worth reading - just not her best, I'm afraid.
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