Veronica's Reviews > Going Gently

Going Gently by David Nobbs
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Apr 21, 09

bookshelves: postal-book-group, fiction
Read in April, 2009

I didn’t dislike this book -- I wouldn’t have finished it if I had -- but it didn’t live up to the cover blurb. Jonathan Coe saying it’s “extraordinarily rich and satisfying” makes me sit up and take notice, but it definitely wasn’t up to Coe standards ... absolutely nobody does tragicomedy like Jonathan Coe!

Kate isn’t a particularly likeable character, but I don’t have a problem with that -- it’s quite possible to enjoy reading about obnoxious people! The trouble was that all the characters seemed to be caricatures with no real depth -- OK if it’s a purely comic novel but not if you are attempting to be more “profound”, for want of a better word, which I think Nobbs is here (I haven’t read any of his other books). Parts of the plot were very implausible, which is OK on a fantasy level, but Kate seemed to be seriously lacking in judgment most of the time and didn’t do a very good job of learning from her mistakes! She doesn’t seem to develop much -- she’s basically the same at 100 as she was at 20, which seems implausible given her experiences.

I did laugh out loud at times, especially at some of the conversations between patients and Dr Ramgobi in the ward, but the novelty wore off with frequent repetition (especially the business of farting, which is funny a couple of times, but not beyond that). Towards the end, during the rapid canter through the last 45 years of Kate’s life, I got bored, and I didn’t care in the least who had murdered Graham (since he was such a nonentity anyway). It certainly could have been 100 pages shorter.

So Nobbs is no Jonathan Coe! I could imagine Coe or Kate Atkinson taking the same basic idea and making it really compelling, both moving and funny. This book probably also suffered in my eyes because I read it immediately after Jane Stevenson’s Good Women, which truly does combine comedy and pathos.
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