My rating: 2 of 5 stars
“Selected by the New Yorker, Financial Times and New Statesman as a Book of the Year’. Well this book annoyed me and I ploughed through nine of its fifteen chapters before saying “Oh sod it, I can’t be bothered”.
The book revolves around the relationship issues of two couples living in or near London at the time Obama became U.S.A President. The couples are African / American / West Indian, so the issue of race is a major one in the book. But mostly it’s about their deteriorating marriages. At first I was quite interested in the author’s insights into the things that can cause a long-term relationship to go cold. But my interest was not maintained.
For me the book fails on two levels. One is the excess of detail. Detail is good, detail is fine, but there are parts of this book where the detail adds zero to the story, zero to what you know about the characters and their situation, and just becomes tedious. The extended description of the perfume department in a store, the long sequence around the children’s play gym come to mind. The second is that there is just plain bad writing: excessively long sentences and bad grammar. Some of the descriptions seem like attempts to show off a wide vocabulary, but are just irritating:
“he always felt overly conspicuous yet circumferential in their multitudinous presence”.
“he would accentuate the smallness of her breastplate by laying his head against it” – she uses “breastplate” quite a bit. I kept thinking of Boadicea.
“… her shining teeth, her cream-coloured neck. She was virtually off the hizzle.” WTF is a hizzle? I googled it and the urban dictionary says it means ‘a house’ as in “Fo shizzle, get up out dis hizzle”. Makes sense? Not to me
“I want to make your zoom zoom go boom boom”. That’s one of Michael’s thoughts apparently.
I could go on. There are mixed metaphors aplenty e.g. “along a mental washing line leading towards a final eclipse”.
I’d expect a “book of the year” to be moderately well written. This is not. Very disappointing.