I’ve dwelled a lot this week. I was at book club on Friday; the food was tasty, I had a glass of wine, I listened to tales of South Africa, safaris, vineyards; which I enjoyed…but there’s traces of bitterness running through my veins. I had a career, a good wage, holidays. People are struck down all over the globe with illness that’ll alter them, their lives, their loved ones. My disability could be significantly worse. It’s just so unreliable and tedious that I want to scream until my bones rattle. Being fit, healthy, swimming, dancing was at the core of my being and my core’s been extracted during key hole surgery. I won’t be going on safari; a lion bar’s the nearest I’ll get. My body is so squishy I’m a gummy bear. My point is to explain I have a lot of dips and lows. My writing; Random Attachment and The Rebirth of Henry Whittle is a constant source of comfort. Every day I wake with the purpose of connecting with readers. My audience is an extended family. Only yesterday Lynne gave my book a plug and I felt shiny all day.
So when I pick up a book, I want to love it. I want the writer to draw me out of my front room and into some macabre darkness with characters so brilliant…even if they’re boring I need them to be amazingly boring. I don’t expect to find reading a chore, or stereotypes, or the wheel reinvented.
So my first book this week was Alice Kuipers Life on the Refrigerator Door. I loved the concept, very original, which is hard to achieve. It dealt with a difficult subject incredibly well…the P.S. Letter got me. As a mum you can’t bear not to be there for your child. As a daughter losing a parent is devastating. I loved the doodles, reminds me of my kids books. I would have liked more distinction between the two voices; a few times I had to stop and think. Perhaps this was deliberate in that Claire was so independent whilst supporting a working mum. Being disabled myself, with my children often caring for me, sometimes I wonder who’s the child and who’s the adult. Putting illness and death aside, it struck me as sad how one of life’s most influential, meaningful relationships (good or bad) was reduced to rushed notes and mundane tasks. I’ve been a fulltime working mum myself; relying on childminders and nurseries so this isn’t judgemental it’s an observation. I guess it’s an alarm bell that life is fragile; we need to be in the moment and make time for loved ones.
My song of the week is the amazing Billie Eilish who I’ve had on my playlist for a while. I feel I absorbed Billie’s music, mixed it with my history, added a bit of Kitty and Gerty and from that Mia’s voice merged. Billie is a 2019 Sia and Mia is so many girls out there.
I’m apologising to Tana French now for my lopsided review of In The Woods.
I have all the time in the world yet I resent my time being wasted. My quality of life is often poor so I don’t want to waste a minute of wellness. There are so many amazing books to discover, debuts and favourite authors, that if I get a quarter a way through a novel and it’s not offering what I need, I set it on a new path to someone more appreciative. As a reader I remember that loving a book is subjective, I can’t place all the responsibility on the writer. As a writer I know the importance of telling your story; never be too led by editors.
Before I charge in I want to commend Tana for her talent; it far exceeds my own which is what I look for in a storyteller.
I’m a little cranky. It’s not often I get cross with a book…but last night I was bristling with irritation. As an author I have this code; if a reader invests time in your book you need to give them what they want. For me that means no stone left unturned. Yes a cliffhanger is a literary tool to keep the reader on the edge of their seat but five hundred and ninety-two pages later I was unprepared for being discarded as thoughtlessly as Rob dropped Cassie. Sorry…but I really am peeved. I know that they’ll be a critically acclaimed second and third book where the mystery will be picked up but I don’t want to spend over twenty pounds to find out what happened to two kids.
I’m thinking back to Sarah Hilary’s debut. A murder’s committed. In the background lurks this interesting back story of a brother killing parents. It’s cleverly touched on but the murder is centre stage. The murder is solved and the reader knows in future books Marnie’s history will unfold. It’s a well-known recipe, a trusted structural device and Sarah Hilary does it total justice.
Every so often a book comes around that has you immediately asking questions…as a reader you are deliciously in the dark. Three children, two go missing, one remains; his shoes filled with blood that isn’t his. Brilliant!
Perhaps it’s because In The Woods had so much potential that I feel let down. The balance between the past and present was off.
Actually it didn’t start well. I thought the prologue was overly descriptive and wordy; trying far too hard to create a foreboding that we didn’t need because the circumstances of the children’s disappearance was unsettling enough. The Times’ review; ‘A terrific debut,’ kept me reading. The writing style in the body of the book was dynamic and filled with intrigue.
I’ll continue with what Tana did brilliantly. She invited us into a tender, honest relationship; bordering on my favourite crime team ever. I loved Cassie, I loved Rob. The first few lines of chapter one were genius. They hinted that Detective Ryan wasn’t who he appeared to be…but this failed to materialise…yes his name was false and he withheld a chunk of his history…but he was not a dark protagonist…he wasn’t even particularly troubled by his past until later events. In fact he demonstrated character flaws shared with the psychopaths Cassie regularly described. But he was so damaged, so charismatic, so vulnerable it was impossible for Cassie not to love him. And fierce, loyal Cassie gave him all the space he needed; she opened up to him and SLAM. I’m not sure if Rob’s freaking out over consummating their relationship was believable or not? Perhaps an initial discomfort or regret but I certainly didn’t believe days later he could turn nasty. Lock her out yes, be embarrassed, be disappointed, grieve for a possibly a lost friendship but flip into a cruel, bitchy, shallow cad…I’m not sure? Again he was exhibiting signs of dissociation and lacking in empathy but the writer was so spot on emotionally I felt sick for Cassie.
I liked that Dublin was in touching distance; it could have been Templeogue; it felt that familiar to me.
I didn’t like the subplot of the motorway and the uncle. It made the book far too long and I care about characters and missing children not about corruption. The interviews, the wiretap felt very disconnected from the main crime.
I wasn’t far into the book when I knew who the murderer was, the writer wasn’t subtle in that respect…but I was so wrapped up in Rob and Cassie that it was fine.
Back to the very first mystery. I was on tender hooks trying to formulate an explanation for Jamie and Peter. Being Irish descent and having grown up with mystical Irish folk law I’m not taking the hint on that one…that would be a cop-out.
Lastly I’ll explain why I won’t buy book 2. I think introducing a unique, unfathomable mystery of missing children and not giving closure was poor. Anyone came come up with some elusive missing person, Jonathan Creek type scenario, it’s solving it that’s complex. In reality how many readers of book 1 have died before book 2 without knowing what happened to the kids? I’d haunt the author. It would have been sufficient to leave readers wondering about a reconciliation between Cassie and Rob; professionally and personally; to have me purchase book two.
So that’s a wrap for this week. One thing that made me happy was someone on Kindle Unlimited is reading my book. I keep telling myself, be patient, reviews will come. Imagine if I reviewed my own book. Crap! I think I might be in trouble! Shit! I’m not patient either!