It was difficult to read the books this month, mainly because I got myself stuck in the wonderful ‘Miss Peregrine’ trilogy over Christmas, but I did manage it. I spent two full days cramming the Anne Tyler book ready for what was another fairly small, but great fun meeting.
A Spool of blue thread – Anne Tyler
I have read several glowing reviews of Anne Tyler’s books, and I honestly thought that this was an author that I should take notice of. I am now wholly of the opinion that this is an author that I should avoid at all costs. I cannot believe this book won the Pulitzer prize, or any prize for that matter. It is only a few days since the meeting and already I have again forgotten the point of this truly forgettable book.
Let me start with the good, because frankly there’s not much of it. There is a really quite lovely chapter which is set in the past and tells the story of Junior and Linnie Mae, it came at a point in the book when I just wanted to quit reading, and I thought that maybe it would pick up from here, it did not. Linnie Mae is a woman with spirit, and she is the only character in the book that I had any interest in at all.
As for the rest of the book, it’s just utterly dull, I was bored, and while I was bored I was actually counting the hours of my life that I was losing to this book. It wasn’t well written, the characters were grey and dreary (apart from Linnie Mae) and nothing much happened. It started badly, it ended badly and it went on and on for 460+ pages. Denny who is one of the main characters is secretive about his life away from the house, which is ok, because I didn’t care much anyway.
I was worried that perhaps I was being a little cynical, or the fact that I had just read a very good book made this one seem so very bad, but when the rest of the girls agreed with me at the meeting, I felt justified in my dislike of this book and of Anne Tyler’s writing. It felt like she has under contract to write another book, so just sat down and wrote whatever came into her head to keep the publishers happy. I gave the book 2*, the group gave it 1.5* as an average, with Alex (who couldn’t even finish it) awarding the book a token 1* because ‘it was written’ which did make me laugh.
Alice and the Fly – James Rice
I read Alice and the Fly first this month and it was a real page turner. This little known book was a great wee discovery of mine, the subject matter was dark, but the book was beautifully written, with some really intriguing storylines running through the book. The story about obsessions was a difficult read at times, we watch as the main character, Greg struggles with a phobia that manifests itself in hallucinations that cause him to behave erratically and puts others in danger. The descriptions had the ability to make me feel empathy with this poor boy, who is struggling with his fear, and with his obsession with Alice.
His mother is not loving in a maternal sense, there seems to be no warmth in the family at all, but she does ensure that the home is cared for and that the family are fed (albeit the same thing for days at a time). His Father is obsessed with breasts, and as a plastic surgeon likes to share images of his work with his family, at utterly inappropriate times, like during a family meal. The rest of his time is spent in his locked office, or conducting affairs with women who seem to have no self worth. The narrative, which is mostly in the 1st person has the ability to evoke many emotions, at times the descriptions made me feel sick, and I had to remind myself it was only a book.
In amongst the narrative are some transcripts of police interviews, which give us a picture of what is actually happening from a perspective other than Greg’s, and that is a lovely addition to the story. The change of tempo and writing style in these sections adds a new dimension and keeps the reader interested. This is a fantastic book and I would happily recommend it to anyone looking for a gritty book with a lot of heart. We gave this book 4* at the meeting, which was also my rating, I believe it deserves some recognition.