Together in Spirit

An online reading group ('TIS a reading group!) to bring together friends, and friends of friends, who aren't able to be in a conventional reading group due to constraints of time or geography.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Humming flat

Sorry if the following sounds negative...I'm finding it quite hard to pin down what underwhelms me about this novel. I found myself skimming it, and I didn't feel I learnt anything. I think it's probably that there was nothing about this particular novel to make it sing - not language, setting or characters. All competently evoked, but I rather hope for extraordinary language, atmosphere and characters (because I'm greedy and don't have enough time to read much). The small community knowing everyone's business was well evoked, but I preferred "Sunset Song" for that. I also tend to prefer "show not tell" as a narrative technique, and some character traits or plot "twists" were signed so often that I was thoroughly fed up with them by the time they were announced. The opposite of Gosford Park where, as Julian Fellowes commented, Robert Altman only tells the audience something - even something crucial - once. Since I often blink and miss something, repeat viewings continue to be richly rewarding. Altman trusts the audience to keep up. I'd rather Strachan trusted me to keep up and, accordingly, cut her novel right down to the bare bones. But that's just my personal taste. I have no objection to the novel and think it's well done, even if it doesn't grab me personally. I'm glad some of you have been grabbed!