I read a lot of book reviews. Mostly they summarise the plot and say whether the reviewer liked it. In the LRB they also give you a lot of unnecessary information about the reviewer’s life and work.
Last weekend, Christine Dwyer Hickey wrote the most entertaining review I have read in years. A bit harsh perhaps. Unfortunately, the Irish Times is too mean to let you access it freely over the internet but perhaps I can give you some extracts so that you can get a flavour of Ms. Dwyer Hickey’s tone.
The book she reviewed is by a woman called Lorna Martin and it is called “Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown: A Memoir”. I’d say Ms. Martin is a lot closer to the edge after reading this.
“… Let’s start by getting this much straight – Lorna Martin was never on the verge of anything that even comes close to a nervous breakdown […] What she did go through was a rough patch in her personal life […] She did, however, find hwerself crying a lot, often in public. The reason for all this crying? Well, a man, of course. (For this, for this did the sufragettes chain themselves to the railings.)[…]
[She went into therapy] We are not told if these professionals thought to ask if this public sobbing, or should I say public house sobbing (as this is where it usually occurred) had anything to do with alcohol or some other factor; hormones perhaps, or even a tendency to whinge when overcome with emotion. Anyway, if sobbing over a man when half-cut in a public bar constitutes clinical depression, well…
Before very long, it’s pretty clear Martin really has nothing to moan about. Her past is dipped into, the bottom of its barrel duly scraped and still nothing emerges that a good kick up the you-know-what wouldn’t cure. […] The second trauma occurred when Martin was 15 and her sister, Louise, had surgery to have a brain tumour removed. I had to read this section more than once because I couldn’t believe that Martin managed somehow to make this tragedy her own. It was as if, by comparison, her sister’s suffering meant little, her parents’ anguish even less. Martin had felt neglected, while Louise, in intensive care, had hogged all the limelight. Twenty years on she announces at a family dinner that she has forgiven them all ‘for abandoning her during this difficult time, when she was still but a child in need of love and attention’.
Throughout this memoir, Martin frequently refers to her need to be liked. yet by writing this book she has rendered herself almost impossible to like.[…]
Had this memoir been well written or in any way witty, some, if not all, of this might have been overlooked. Unfortunately, the prose style brings little pleasure in the reading and the recurrence of such eyesores as “GRRRR!” and “Arrrrrgggghhh!” is unforgiveable. Then there’s the subject. NOt a paragraph goes by that is not fully engrossed with Lorna Martin. And that’s a subject that is neither funny nor remotely interesting.”
So there. I’m probably not going to give it a go then. I’m keen to get hold of some of Christine Dwyer Hickey’s short stories though.
And from this week’s births (I know you’re holding your breath out there):
ORDINARY IRISH NAME – X and Y are pleased to announce the births of Henry Stuart and Sloane Charlotte, born at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital etc. etc.
Sloane Charlotte? To think that I once thought Chelsea was an odd name. How many other parts of London are begging to be incorporated into an innocent infant’s name?