And I’m frankly stunned.
I’d read reviews which said it was slightly more of a departure to her others (apart from ‘This charming Man’ which I also felt was more a chore than the usual joy to read) but it was totally worth getting there. A few reviewers even said it had taken them up to page 200 before the Keyes magic had started to work for them. So once I’d well and truly passed p.300 I knew I was sunk. It just wasn’t doing it for me.
I think perhaps I am somewhere related to the Pooh Bear. I am a reader of limited brain capacity. Give me more than three or four main characters to be getting to know and I am flummoxed. Much the way I was left high and dry and gasping for breath after finally getting to the end of Matt Beaumont’s ‘Small World’. Sixteen main characters in a book does not a pleasure to read make. For me, anyway.
The ‘fantasy mystical element’ which served as part-time narrator, for me read more like notes that Marian was making as she went along with each character. Like a reminder. I do this when I’m writing. ‘She’s a crafty awl beggar who likes to pretend she’s Madonna’s prettier sister’ (kind of thing). It just gave the whole thing a sort of ‘outsider’ element and I didn’t feel involved. With anyone.
The only 2 characters I got any semblance of attachment to were the mouthy and brash Lydia who told it like it was and Grudge – and he was a dog for god’s sake! (He got some of the best lines actually).
It took me every night for a fortnight to read just before I turned in. And most nights I read more out of duty. I even sighed with relief some nights that I’d managed another four chapters (quite short). It saddened me. It’d never been this way with Marian and me before.
Before there’s been warmth and affection and flawed characters that just hug you from the page because they’re harbouring secrets only ‘we’ know about and it’s been a fuzzy journey of beauty from beginning to end. But not so much of the fuzzies this time round.
‘The Twist’ was geared to be the realisation as to who the narrator was. But frankly by page 400 I wasn’t particularly bothered. In fact I would have liked it more had it BEEN the dog.
And it made my hand sore. It’s a weighty beggar.
Lisa Lewell did a far more spectacular job of co-dwellers in a flat situation in the wonderful ’31 Dream Street’ – which I would urge everyone to read and re-read. The characters living there, I will never forget.
‘The Memory Keeper’s Daughter’ beckons me this evening, courtesy our Lovely Librarian at work (the spit of Leila who partnered Anton in this year’s Strictly) and I hope for some light relief.
Mind you, Whore and Peace would probably do just the same.