Wednesday, 28 June 2017

The Favourite - S.V. Berlin

Who’d be a writer, eh? You pour your heart and soul, every fibre of your being into a book. Writing one is achievement enough, but getting it published must be a supreme accomplishment. Then some smart ass reviewer comes along  with something akin to a metaphoric teacher’s red pen and almost tells that you could do better. Well, S.V. Berlin, you couldn’t have done any better! But……. you could have done less.

This debut novel is intriguing in that there is little in the way of action. It is an observational novel with perceptions and insights into relationships. Precipitated by the death of their mother, siblings Edward and Isobel are forced together after a lengthy estrangement. Forming an uncomfortable threesome is Edward’s partner, Julie. What follows is the thoughts, feelings and responses of these three individuals to the experience of Mary’s death and their own relationships with each other and their families. Several situations are seen from each of their individual viewpoints and interpretations. 

Much of the writing is stylish and mature, eloquent and flowing. And there are few who read this who will not identify with some of the human dynamics in the story. There is a sensitive understanding of what grief and bereavement does to you. And there is also an understanding of what people do to one another when they are unable to communicate effectively.

The problem I had with this book is that it is over long. I believe I coined the phrase ‘debut novel exuberance syndrome’ a while ago and it seems very apt here. Each character does a great deal of soul searching in this book and it seemed that every thought was expressed in minute detail. In my opinion that wasn’t always necessary as the points had been well made and sometimes you have to credit your reader with an ability to understand what you are trying to express. 

I found the latter stages of the book less verbose and I found myself reading eagerly to see how situations progressed. The ending was enigmatic. The reader is left wondering what might happen. That kind of conclusion can appeal to many readers who enjoy allowing a book to stay with them long after they finish reading. Others prefer everything neatly tied up. Well you won’t get that here but I’d say don’t be put off. And don’t be put off by my comments about the book’s length. I’m just a smart ass reviewer, remember. This is an intelligent piece of work and this writer deserves a lot of credit.

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