Saturday, 25 October 2014
I don't often write about books I dislike - after all, why bother? - but The Shock of the Fall, which won the Costa prize, turned out to be everything I most dislike about the contemporary novel.
I admit, there wasn't anything about it that appealed to me when it was selected for our book group this month. 'You're going to love it' - the plug from the Daily Mail on the back cover - would be enough to assure me that, No, I'm probably not. The jacket design shrieked mass-market emotion.
I persevered. I loathed the typographical tricksiness. Even the page numbers are irritating and gimmicky.
Very briefly, it is about grief and guilt and a teenage boy's descent into schizophrenia following the death of his Down's syndrome brother. Could there be a novel with any more Issues?
Nathan Filer - who was a psychiatric nurse - is now a lecturer in Creative Writing and this reads like a competent NaNoWriMo project. It's the kind of novel that might have been assembled in parts from an Airfix kit.
I'm sure there's a PhD thesis for someone on the deleterious effect of the female book group on literature. Because the demand for bite-sized discussion topics to go with the finger food has created a vast market for novels that are like ready-meals for the brain.
Of course, what's really bugging me is that no sooner had I plodded to the predictably upbeat and redemptive ending - don't want it too grim and depressing, do we? - than I realised that I'll probably be working too late to make this month's get together. Dammit. I needn't have bothered reading it!