Saturday, 25 April 2015
I'm getting very bored with this month's book group choice; only half way through but it definitely falls into the 'plodding on out of politeness' category. I'm not a great fan of historical novels unless they're of the calibre of Wolf Hall - which this surely isn't.
The real life story of Typhoid Mary, the Irish cook who spread disease through her cooking is undoubtedly fascinating. I knew little about her and certainly hadn't considered the human rights/legal side of her story. I don't know whether there's enough source material to flesh out a biography - but a good biography would have been far more interesting than this heavily fictionalised story.
Perhaps I'd have been more forgiving of the unconvincing historical detail (Mary's Paris hat? She's an immigrant Irish cook for heaven's sake) if the story had zipped along a bit faster - but it drags along so painfully slowly that it gives the reader ample time to mutter and growl about its shortcomings.
The story of Typhoid Mary has all the ingredients for what could have been a gripping read - but by over-egging the pudding Mary Beth Keane has made it fall flat. I am reminded of another medical history, so deftly handled that it would break your heart to read it ... and can only say that The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a far better read.