Friday, 11 December 2009

'The Brightest Star in the Sky' Er... not from where I'm standing.

I never thought I’d hear myself say or see myself write this but I’ve just finished Marian Keyes’ latest blockbuster, ‘The Brightest Star in the Sky’ and I cannot say with hand on any body-part that I actually liked it very much, let alone *heart*ed it.
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.


Lane said...

Oh dear. I had a look at this today in W'stones, all sparkly on the shelf. I used to love her books but This Charming Man fell a bit flat in the fact that he wasn't exactly ... um charming.

Jacqueline Christodoulou said...

You're in for a treat with the Memory Keeper's Daughter. It took me a bit to get into it, in fact I nearly didn't but it is sooooo worth it - such a beautiful book. The central premise has stayed with me since I read this book.

I'm still reading The Charming Man. It's taking me ages.

Debs Riccio said...

Phew Lane! Thought I was going to get slated for not liking it - there's a lot of die hard Keyes fans out there (do I still count as one I wonder?).Yeah That Charming Man just so... wasn't.was he?
Jacqui - good to hear about the MK'sD - I know there's been a film - did you see it? but I want to read the book first. Films always disappoint don't they? Apart from High Fidelity of course - which just upped the ante as far as I was concerned.

Keris said...

This really does seem to be a "Marmite" book. I adored it, as you know, but the Amazon comments are pretty split.

(I loved 31 Dream St too but can't remember a single character.)