on 24 January 2014
If this book hadn't been a gift, I wouldn't have read it to the end. In fact, I wouldn't have read it at all, full stop, largely due to the main characters' lack of warmth or humility. I couldn't make a connection with them, and am at a loss to work out who might enjoy this novel.
Jean, academic wife through whom much of the story is told, is a rather inconsistent, easily-flustered 39-year old. Her husband, Victor, is the stereotypical, constantly distracted academic: at mealtimes he zones-out and scribbles in a notebook, completely unaware that around him his wife and two daughters are, in their different ways, unravelling. Phoebe, the younger teenage daughter is a precocious drama queen, and because Phoebe gets all the attention, Eve, the older teenage daughter, resorts to self-harming. And to say - given what transpires - that Jean's best friend, Helen, is too intense is putting it mildly.
The dust cover says, "Jean Lux, constrained academic wife and guilty mother, is waiting for excitement - and it will come from an unexpected source." Hmm, I thought, cue a lesbian affair. And I was right.
The story doesn't reach any heights until, two-thirds of the way through, when Victor's rival in academe, Raymond Snow, shows up. Raymond has recently returned from the USA and the old roué quickly sets about seducing first Eve, then Phoebe. This is sinister enough, but to compound matters, it turns out that the girls' mother, Jean, lost her virginity to the same Raymond Snow all those years ago. Jean was going out with Victor at the time but he was taking too long to get round to "doing it" so Jean "did it" with Raymond Snow. Thankfully, when Victor finds out that Snow has "had" all of the women in his life, he is able to successfully exact revenge.
At the same time as all this is going on, Jean is embarking on a lesbian affair with her best friend Helena.
Apart from the unlikeable characters, the book is peppered with inconclusive, meaningless part-sentences, such as this example, taken from page 141 -
`I...' they both say.
`Go on then.'
`No,' says Helena suspiciously. `You go on.'
`I don't want you to think...'
`I don't,' Helena interrupts. `Look, you don't need to, you know, say anything. I should ... I have to apologize. I'm sorry I haven't already. It's all a ghastly...'
`Oh!' says Jean. `Is it? I ... I though...'
Far from "brilliant and witty" as promised on the dust cover, I found this book dark and depressing. `Daughters of Jerusalem' has won two prestigious prizes so, clearly, my judgement is way off-beam.