Feb 23, 12
Read from February 17 to 22, 2012
I purchased this book on a whim; I rarely purchase reading material without scrupulously comparing prices online, and making sure that yes, I definitely do want to read this book. However, when in Waterstones, one can rarely resist buying something - is it something in the paper-filled air? I can't be the only one, and as wonderful as Amazon is, 'Look Inside!' feature takes all the romance out of smelling and caressing a brand new book.
Anyway, this contemporary read is set in 18th Century pre-revolution France. As someone who never reads 'modern' books, this was a bit of a risk, and one that I cannot say paid off. The book seemed to lack plot, perhaps because it was based around the excavation of Les Innocents cemetery in France, where the bones of the dead were taken to the Catacombs in which they now reside. The lack of one single event means that the plot too seems like one large progression rather than a story, and seems to lead to nowhere in particular. The writing is eloquent enough - although I disliked the overuse of words like 'piss' and several references to vulgar bodily functions and habits that served no purpose within the novel - but the lack of real purpose in the story is definitely a disadvantage. The characters are somewhat insipid, not at all helped by the present tense, third person narration, which further adds to the sense of detachment from anything recognisable. The reactions of particular characters were absurd and unrealistic, with actions having no discernable motives or consequences in terms of emotions - a little more time developing the characters, a little less time trying to shock the reader with voyeuristic descriptions might have improved my reception of the book.
The descriptions of 'Gripping' and 'Dazzling' seems out of place after the novel is finished, as it instead read like an extract from an observation of life among sociopaths, with no plot to grip with, and limp characters that failed to dazzle. I may read another book by Andrew Miller, as his writing was experimental and unique, but in this structureless, obscure, very foreign format, the lack of any familiar technique is more than disconcerting, not very successful, and rather ruined my enjoyment.
I might stick to Amazon until I have a better nose for good books elsewhere.