Charles's Reviews > The Wilding
by Maria McCann
by Maria McCann
Apr 24, 2010
A well-researched, neatly constructed, beautifully written book that takes potentially Catherine Cookson material and turns it into an examination of truth, social constriction and responsibility. I've given it four stars on that basis. So why, after As Meat Loves Salt, was I disappointed? Perhaps because the novel felt almost too well-made and in control of itself, whereas the previous novel seemed to be struggling to contain what it was saying, and not saying. I'm haunted by scenes in that book in a way I don't expect to be by its successor. There was a sense of strangeness in the first book - as though people really did do things differently in the past, to the point of seeming almost unrecognisable, only to suddenly, often shockingly, reveal their common humanity - that's lacking here. It might be that the central character is intrinsically less interesting because less tortured, but the grounds for his suffering are certainly more than adequate. It might be that the first book left the situation hanging whereas this one ties everything up. It might be, though I don't think so, that I wanted another gay protagonist, although one of the finest things about AMLS was that the hero's sexuality refused that kind of ahistoricising categorisation. I'm not sure. So, for me anyway, a good but not great book, thwarted, ironically, by the author's skill.
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