My friends at the Lucan book club make the last Wednesday of the month a pleasant experience. It’s always good to talk to people who like reading. ‘A Keeper’ (by Graham Norton) turned out to be rather a flat read. Most people thought it a competent work, which engaged the reader’s curiosity to the end, but did not consider it a very good book. For my part, I found the plot improbable and the characters poorly drawn. The book’s chapters alternate between ‘Now’ and ‘Then’ and so one has two stories popping up and down as one goes along. I find this construction confusing, since I prefer a story told straightforwardly without this kind of to-ing and fro-ing. All in all, I would give it 4/10 and would recommend it to anyone only if they had absolutely nothing else to read. To be fair, it would pass the time. Lukewarmly recommended.
When one reads Christine Mangan’s ‘Tangerine’ , one’s immediate thought is: come back Graham Norton, all is forgiven. This is a hopelessly tangled story that goes nowhere, with two main characters that are almost indistinguishable: ‘Alice’ and ‘Lucy’. Separate alternate chapters are given to each. and again this kind of structure does not appeal to me. Maybe it would work if the two women were drawn in a way that they appeared different as people. The only difference I could see is that one is silly and the other sillier. A silly book too, and most other people at the Book Club thought so, though a few were inclined to be less harsh than I. I give it 2/10, 1 because it’s always a success to have a book published and. 2, because I do not doubt that a lot of work went into it. There a ‘puff’ on the cover from Joyce Carol Oates extolling the book’s virtues. Oates is such a great writer herself that I will find it hard to forgive her. Not recommended.
Eva Dolan’s ‘This Is How It Ends’ is streets ahead of the above two. Again, there’s a lot of jumping around with chapters dated before and after and before again, which I found confusing. Fortunately, being confused as to when things were happening in relation to other things didn’t impair my reading too much because there is a definite plot-line and very good characterisation of the book’s people. There’s a very good description of a woman who has spent a lot of her life ‘protesting’ (on the Greenham Common demonstrations, for instance) and now finds herself aged and alone. And the other characters are also very well drawn. I thought it a good read and would give it 7/10. I took off 3 for it being a bit long-drawn out towards the end. 3? Oh hell, I’ll give it 8/10 and recommend it.
The Lucan Book Club meets in Lucan Library every last Wednesday of the month. Free admission