I saw this book mentioned on someone’s blog (sorry to be so vague but I don’t remember whose) and noted it down as a book that looked interesting but I wasn’t inclined to buy on the spot. I may even have downloaded a sample to my Kindle.
Then Gav and Simon over at The Readers announced that it was going to be their second book club read. That was the push I needed and I bought the book and made sure I read it in time for the podcast (which will come out on October 5th, so I made it with some time to spare).
I found this book to be a rather strange experience. I am aware that that probably comes from my own reading habits and preferences, but that doesn’t make my response invalid.
I loved the language and the strange, poetic atmosphere the author created for the stories. The way it made me feel, caught up in the salt-air taste of these stories (so many of them with a feeling of the sea) was wonderful.
But there’s a but.
Hardly any of them felt like they had a proper end. Let me stress, they felt that way to me. They seemed to just kind of meander to a stop. I admit to being a fairly linear reader (especially as a result of 20 years of CFS – and sorry I keep harping on that fact; maybe if I don’t add it I feel that I must just be plain stupid for not “getting it”). I was also trained as a scientist and I have that kind of brain. It’s a brain that thinks in terms of abstract and method, results and conclusion. These stories don’t conclude, that just seem to stop.
I like my stories to be going some place and planning to reveal something to me and leave me in a particular place. So for me, ones like this that seem to be about the place and the feeling and the prose without progression and plot, feel lacking to me.
I’m left feeling either that there was something there that I totally failed to see and I’m stupid, or that it was only about the words and what was the point?
Again, I acknowledge that this is most likely a case of how my brain works (and I think it’s the reason I shy away from literary fiction because it leaves me feeling the same way – either stupid or taken for a ride because there wasn’t the kind of conclusion I need to feel satisfied).
I really loved the tone and the language and the feeling these stories evoked in me. I highly recommend them as they were lovely to read. All the same, for me, that “but” remains. If you have the kind of brain I do and you need a more solid sense of ending, just go into this collection knowing you might not get it and I hope you’ll love it without any sense of disappointment the wrong kind of expectation and produce.