okay, if you’re looking for another glowing review, this isn’t going to be it
you’ll have to find someone else to tell you what a “seminal piece of fiction” it is
because I hated this so much I had to bite the inside of my cheek to keep from screaming
and look, I can fail at using punctuation too
it’s not exactly a challenge
Okay enough of that. I’m going to write this properly because I’m not a total wanker. I wouldn’t, say, write an entire book this way. That would be insufferable. That would be basically unreadable. That would make you think you’d lost your mind if you read it knowing it had won the Booker Prize… Oh wait, this book did all of those things.
Look, usually I try to soften the blow with negative reviews, but there’s no way around how much I hated this book. For me, this is just another in a long line of prizewinning books that I pored over trying to find *something* of merit. I picked it up, put it down, picked it up again, persisted once more… and still found it wanting. Despite all the praise that’s heaped on this book, I couldn’t see any hidden quality to it. I know I’m in the minority with this, but I’ve just got to come out and say it: THE EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES!
With a million run on sentences and no punctuation, the book is near unintelligible. It comes across as mindless rambling. The style is much like listening to half a conversation a stranger is having on the phone- you vaguely know it’s important to them… but you also don’t care and wish they’d shut up because this is the quiet carriage dammit and you’re trying to mind your own business. Amazingly, on top of being pointlessly bloated, the writing also manages to be stodgy and flat at the same time. It’s almost impressive how it’s been gutted of any life. There’s no delicacy to the wording or vibrancy to the imagery (ha, what imagery?) It’s just stripped bare and a little awkward for it. Naturally this somewhat dents the reading experience, leaving very little emotional impact, despite (what little there is of) the narrative being very graphic.
Structurally, it’s all over the place. Each story is attempting to do something like Gyasi, linking individual stories into one overarching narrative. Except this can’t pull that off. Coming across as a completely disparate narrative, the strands between stories stretch thin. And this was made worse by the knowledge that they’re *supposed* to be close (friends and even family). But the way it was written meant the impression was overly fragmented and I could barely tell them apart in my head. Particularly as there was no differentiation in voice and they all used the same “lexicon”. The way they all sounded the same (and felt the same) resembled a hive mind.
Apparently, the reason I had to suffer through this is because it’s “experimental”. Though that’s not much of an excuse. Because, you see, we already have this thing called short stories and we even have this thing called short story collections! I know- incredible! It’s less original, more irritating. It’s just doing what other people have done before, but badly. It kinda reminds me of when sound sculpture was a thing (which just amounted to off-key singing).
This also managed to commit the cardinal sin of being boring on top of infuriatingly written. That’s because it’s full of political diatribes. Unless you love being lectured to by most of the “characters” in this book, you’re not likely to enjoy this read.
And, of course, as I’ve come to expect from political manifestos masquerading as literature, a lot of the opinions are logically incoherent. My favourite example was when a character insists she’s “not a victim”, after chewing our ear off for pages about how she is in fact a victim. The book was basically gaslighting me at that point. I did, however, find it amusing how it ribs Derrida (whilst basically being 99% based on his philosophy). If I didn’t hate everything else about this book, I’d give it points for that.
So, there you go. I believe this has managed to knock even my least favourite books off their pedestal. Most of the time I like to be gentle when I break up with a book, but in this case all I can say is “nah, it’s not me, IT’S YOU!” I don’t think there’s anything redeemable about it. It was insipid, sneering and stupid.
Rating: banana peel
So, dare I ask, do you plan to read this one? Or have you read it already? Let me know in the comments!