Reading July: After the intensity of A Little Life last month, I went seeking something shorter and a little less full-on, and stumbled upon Darkness On The Edge of Town by Jessie Cole. I picked this up at the local library and was lured by the blurb… “My dad, he collects broken things … Where other people see junk he sees potential … My dad collects broken people too … a haunting tale that beguiles the reader with its deceptively simple prose, its gripping and unrelenting tensions, and its disturbing yet tender observations.” I was excited. ‘Gripping and unrelenting tensions’- bound to be good.
By page 10, I was so close to not going any further. There was nothing deceptive about the simple prose. It was simple, so simple it left me wondering whether I had mistakenly picked up a young adult novel. So simple it was annoying. But perhaps the simplicity helped build the characters. Simple people, simple place: I kept going, to be disappointed on another point. This was not gripping or unrelenting. The novel tells the story of a young woman who crashes her car on the outskirts of a country town, which results in the death of her newborn baby. For some reason, she attaches herself to the middle aged man who rescues her and a relationship ensues. The ‘unrelenting tension’ was meant to come from the fear of her partner turning up and dragging her home. The story was messy and unbelievable and when the tension finally arrived, she left. Literally left, hitching a ride with a semitrailer that was driving by. So for me, 2 stars. Two stars for getting your first novel published, and having a go.
The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair (Joël Dicker) followed. I’ve had this on my ‘To Read’ list for a while so was excited by the prospect. This is an award-winning book (Prix de l’Académie Francaise 2012) that has been translated into many languages, so expectations were high. But I have to say, I was a little disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, it was totally readable, great for a long plane flight or summer holidays when you lie around and read, read and read. Or those times when you want to read, but you don’t want to think. Books of this kind are great. Light entertainment that keeps you amused, not challenged. But that’s not what I was expecting from this novel. Alas, that’s what I found. This book is about the murder of a 15 year-old girl, thirtythree years ago, in a small town that seems to be keeping a whole lot of secrets. It should have been suspenseful, but I found it flat. There was no real tension throughout the 600 pages. Although there were plenty of red herrings, if I’d lost the book half way through, I wouldn’t have cared. Would I have liked this book more if A Little Life wasn’t still firmly in my memory? Maybe.
So July was 1 miss, 1 ok. Things needed to improve, and Paris Letters (Janice MacLeod) was a great way to wind up the month. This is all about leaving everything behind in the hope of finding what you’re looking for. I loved this book because it’s about taking risks and hoping for the best. This is a memoir and travel log and a great read when you are looking for inspiration.