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!


mary said...

You'll fare much better, Sue! Funnily enough, I was thinking of DW as I read this. How she made quiet lives interesting - no need to recourse to drugs/schizophrenia/dramatic deaths.
Often wish we could abandon book group reading and just have the supper. Our nibbles are often far better than the book!

mary said...

Is it that we need the book as a moral excuse for drinking so much wine on a Weds night, Sue?

mary said...

No wine? One of our members moved house, joined a new group and discovered they operated on tea and not very much to eat ... she's now commuting back to us. We flounder sometimes with the books but our suppers are excellent!

Magic Bean said...

You reminded me of me. As soon as I am told I will love/hate/enjoy something I perversely need to do the opposite and even being annoyed by the page numbers is so me...
Wine in a book group is a necessity isn't it?