June 02, 2012

The Somnambulist & The Clothes on Their Backs

The SomnambulistThe Somnambulist by Essie Fox
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I put off reading this book for such a long time I started to get annoyed with myself. One because I brought it in a huge state of excitement and it was sitting on the bookshelf and two, because everywhere I turned, someone else was reading it, finishing it and raving about it. 

From the first few pages I was hooked. I knew I wasn't supposed to like Maud but that I should like all the Wilton's group and Phoebe. Nathaniel and his Lady wife seemed almost to good to be true, but I wanted them to be. I didn't particularly like Joesph and I think I missed the point where he turned from the flirt from the to the bastard. I think that needed to be a bit clearer, but I was reading on the tube, so your attention is never brilliant in those circumstances.

I liked the happy ending. It was lovely to have something nice happen, even though it was bittersweet. The thing I loved was the complete escape the book offered.

It turns out though there were three reasons I held off reading The Somnambulist. The third is that I read it so quickly, that I reached the end before I was ready. Thankfully, Essie has a new book out soon, and this time around, I'm not going to put off the reading of it. 

The Clothes On Their BacksThe Clothes On Their Backs by Linda Grant
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I don't like writing negative reviews. This time I have to.

From the opening page I had issues with the style and the stilted dialogue. I decided to give it a chance but at page 106 and only 39% read, I have declared defeat.

The main character, Vivian, is underdeveloped and unlikable. Her parents are unrealistic shadows of people. Her first husband dies from an accident that evokes no feelings of sympathy. Vivian then goes in search of her mysterious uncle who is banned from her parents flat and her life. A slum lord with a jail term behind him, he has the most potential to be a decent character.

Some readers will disagree with me and that's fine. We all have to read what we like. This book, for me, is very similar to Zadie Smith's "White Teeth", which I also didn't like. I don't mind contemporary fiction but I find it to be lazy writing when the author assumes a modern setting is enough to keep a reader interested. There is such a wealth of fiction out there that this falls very short for me.

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