Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Northern Clemency by Philip Hensher

There's 600 pages of reading time I'll never get back. What the hell is this book getting so much attention for? I get that the characterization and basic sentence-level work are excellent and vivid. But talk about long for the pointless sake of being long. The whole thing adds up to no story. At no point in the first 500 pages could I say what the conflict is that we were following. Individual set pieces had their own conflicts, but once those were done, what was I reading for except for the critical praise that encouraged me to plow ahead.

Let's take for example the character of Nick and the two sections that follow his POV. He's an interesting character and the situation he's in is interesting. In fact, I wish his conflict was what the novel was about. But it's not. Even in a novel with no story, it's presumably still primarily about the primary characters, and following Nick around for those two long sections adds nothing to the understanding of the primary characters or their conflicts. Cutting out those two sections is the most obvious choice in the world and not doing so suggests a self-indulgence by the author.

Shame on you Amazon. Best book of the year? I don't get it, and I'm so grouchy about it I'm tempted to question your motives.

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