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Is there a word for the opposite of synergy?
on 5 September 2017
Is there a word for the opposite of synergy? A state where the whole is so much LESS than the sum of parts? If there is, then I'd have to apply it to Commonwealth. I decided to read this after hearing Ann Patchett interviewed on the radio. I have a copy of Bel Canto 'somewhere' but couldn't find it, so thought I'd start with this.
The weird thing is that at any point in the book I felt fairly engaged with what was going on, but once I reached the end and looked back, it all seemed horribly disjointed. The characters are not very developed - there are perhaps a few too many - and sometimes, such as with the wife who was cheated on early in the book, it's only very near the end that we get to know anything about her at all. When you do, she's lovely and the trip to Switzerland is very enjoyable, but just as you think you've met somebody new....... well let's just say she doesn't get much more attention.
Plot wise, the leaps in time are distracting. One minute a girl is a babe in arms, the next she's nursing her elderly father, then she's a 20-something law school drop-out working in a bar, then the lover to an author, then back to being a carer again before bouncing back to taking her step-kids to meet some or other parent or step-parent or......confusing stuff.
The promise of the cover blurb is a mystery inappropriately revealed - a personal story confided and then spread around via a novel that reveals things the protagonists didn't know. I expected some great scandal or horror but instead the book just dances around the death of a young man without ever really explaining why it's such a devastating dereliction of family loyalty to have revealed what happened.
Much is hinted at, much is promised, and at times the prose is beautiful. But like a buffet that leaves you simultaneously stuffed and hungry, it doesn't satisfy. It's also SO much like a second rate Anne Tyler novel that I kept thinking how much I wished SHE had written it instead. I'll still keep hunting for my copy of Bel Canto, but that will be make or break for me with Ann Patchett.