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Customer Review

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Legend of the written word, 10 Dec. 2009
This review is from: Legend of a Suicide (Paperback)
I'm not with the reviewer who labels this book 'arch' and suffering from 'creativewritingitis'. Surely it has the potential to be these things, but I felt that it doesn't stray too far into these areas, otherwise I would imagine it could have been twice as long as it is. The fact that it is a relatively short book, but no less powerful for that, and the fact that I read it in one day, speaks volumes, I believe, for the skill of the author and his refusal to wallow in too much self pity or indeed therapy laced reflections, and so-called 'creativewritingitis'.

Instead we have several chapters or stories (admittedly some published separately and having as a central theme the suicide of the author's father), that although quite obviously the product of perhaps some creative writing workshops over the years, have an economy of style and an honesty of reflection that are only to the betterment of the book as a whole.

I am finding it hard to write a 'critique' of this book without having to discuss too much in detail the much longer and middle story in this book without giving away what happens, or shall we say the intended 'shock' of the turning point at the end of part one of the longer story. I will admit I found this 'development' a little hard to swallow, purely within the context of how the story had been built up to that point, but when taken in the context of the book as a whole, and keeping in mind the author's obvious intention to face up to his own personal tragedy by writing this book, I subsequently found it to be a brave and mature imagining of the effects of suicide that the author has plainly been dealing with for most of his life. Part two of the longer story in particular vividly, if fancifully, depicts the desperation and madness that grief can produce.

In pure terms of writing style or technique even, the whole thing is naturally well paced (the shorter stories and the short format of the book on the whole being a factor here but also the innate economy of the writing style), and generally there isn't an over indulgence of inward reflection or of trying to find the most original or Oprah-book-club-friendly simile. For a lot of the narrative, the actions and words of the characters speak volumes in themselves, and the sparse and obviously experienced descriptions of Alaska's wild and savage beauty place the action in an area that is at once boundless and full of possibility but at the same time constricted and frustrating, like the proverbial goldfish bowl, and indeed symbolic of the father's own dreams and frustrations.

I found it interesting that the author mentions the influence of Cormac McCarthy in his Acknowledgments, for I thought myself when reading the long middle story in particular that it was very reminiscent of McCarthy's style. I can't say I am overly familiar with the other writers he mentions (apart from reading Tobias Wolff's 'This Boy's Life') but other, better read reviewers have picked up on their influence.

I would recommend this book to anyone. I wouldn't wax quite so lyrical as some of the reviews on the cover but it is definitely a superior piece of writing to what is usually gushed over by the critics.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 10 Oct 2013, 17:06:13 BST
Alan and Jan says:
Great review - makes one want to read the book without the often synopsis which seems to have no reason other to confirm the person has read the book and only spoils the plot!
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N. Byrne
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Location: Ireland

Top Reviewer Ranking: 124,855