The publishing exec has kindly donated the above tome to the Waffle book collection. Having been away from home for three nights and four days, I have demolished it speedily. I found it slow going at first but it grew on me. It is a depressing reflection that the coming of age novel is now written by people the exact same age as me. I’m not sure how many more 80s stories I can take.
Mr. Mitchell, unwilling to waste some of the characters previously encountered in other works brings back Belgian Eva from “Cloud Atlas”. It is always nice to see a Flemish native cast as exotic and exciting. Those of us who live among them regard them differently, I think; more stoic, industious and dependable. And furthermore,if she were a real posh Fleming then French would be her native tongue even though she lived in deepest darkest Flanders, which she did. I know precisely where this fictional character lived because years ago, the publishing exec made us take a detour there on our way home from Bruges. Never say these editors don’t support their authors. I see there is a reference to number9dream as well. Is he going to be like that William Boyd and keep introducing the same characters in all his books? Not a bad thing, but I just wanted to show off, I haven’t been reading the London Review of Books for years for nothing, you know.
The book reminded me a bit of “The Rotters’ Club”, particularly the relationship between the siblings although my memory is that Lois and Ben enjoyed a somewhat happier rapport before Lois’s catastrophe (see the way I’m not ruining it for you, in case you haven’t read it) and horrible cousin Hugo reminds me of vile Paul. I bet Hugo will end up a New Labour MP as well.
It was also somewhat Mary George of Allnorthoverish in its descriptions but, if you ask me that Lavinia Greenlaw is a bit too poetic, so I’m not entirely sure that this is a compliment. There’s only so many poetic descriptions I want in my prose, thank you.
It wasn’t as good as “Cat’s Eye” or as horrific but it was an entertaining read. Not quite as entertaining as “Starter for Ten” also a pub exec present and now a major motion picture but, I thought, a much more thoughtful and evocative book. For me, far better than “Cloud Atlas” despite all the latter’s much vaunted cleverness. I really warmed to the main character and I loved his deeply unlikely triumph at the end of the book. While “Cloud Atlas” was very innovative in structure and all the more annoying for it; this is comfortably familiar perhaps even, ooh dare I say it, oh go on, a little derivative, but in a good way. What’s not to like? Recommended.
Oh, and apparently yesterday was world book day so they’ve brought out abbreviated versions of the classics to encourage more reading. “War and Peace” now weighs in at a slimline 900 pages instead of 1,500. Who precisely is the target audience for this? I suspect that a reluctant reader won’t embrace 900 pages more enthusiastically than 1,500 and, for heaven’s sake, if you’ve covered 900 pages, surely another 600 aren’t going to hurt. Mind you, they said they’ve made it shorter by cutting out a lot of the war and, if my memory is any way accurate, I can’t feel that that would hurt the narrative much.