“Relative garbage; waste of time to read; trash!”
My first reactions but as I forced myself to read more, the book became more and more intriguing. About the 100 page mark roughly, the book began to draw me in.
My early reaction
A piece of junk: grandiose, pedantic, pedestrian, over-reaching.
Even after thirty pages, it was a tedious read. I found no interest in some story about a dead twin. I am imposing my views on grief as I am passed mourning loved ones who were close, a naïve response though, for unless one is a hermit, the grim reaper will appear at everyone’s door repeatedly until finally your door receives the fatal knock.
The flaw of the book
The book bounces from narration to narration; first, the bookshop owner’s daughter, Margaret, begins telling her story; then, Ms. Winter leads the narrative; next the story slides into narration by Winter’s family members, then switches to characters from her youth. It becomes a never ending challenge to tease out who is telling whose story.
Just as one becomes engaged in one of the narratives, the author switches narrative horses recounting or resuming another tale. Very disconcerting for the reader’s attention.
The author’s style is too esoteric
The author arguably sees herself as a great wordsmith, tossing off blotches of verbal colour all over her grandiose canvas. But like Jackson Pollock paintings, there is no clear concentration on one subject, no single focus. More a smattering of colourful splashes which are to be taken as a whole and that may be where I am off in my review. Perhaps the book should be taken in a similar way, as a whole and not a collection of disparate stories threaded together by the bookshop clerk, Margaret.
Margaret Lea is invited to meet with a renowned writer, Vida Winters, who wishes to contract her to write her biography. We learn explanatory details about Winter, her illness, her reasons for choosing Lea to do the transcription and writing as the book’s story develops. her troubled life.
There are numerous secondary stories which are the chapters of Winter’s life. She describes her life and the childhood of ‘the twins,’ one beneficent, the other, malevolent and reinforces their personas with anecdotes from their young lives. Winter’s narrative includes other stories, other characters who play roles in and around the twins’ lives: the gardener, the near blind, almost deaf old housekeeper, the new guardian, the neighbor who is an abandoned child, the local doctor and his wife. Some of the stories are emotionally touching, others fraught with suspense and intrigue, their descriptions literary gems as the author, Diane Setterfield, does have excellent literary skills. Where she lacks is in knowing when to terminate her elaborative descriptions. Too often, the elaborateness and undue length of the description tests a reader’s attention span and literary patience.
Setterfield does one of the better jobs I have read in closing her story. She ties up loose ends and does it in a slow, thoughtful, and thorough manner. There is no rush to the end. The reader is done good service with proper closure to every little story bringing each to a logical and satisfactory end.
My bottom line
I would not recommend this book but I have so reservations in saying that, I could be re-interpreted as giving the book a “bare recommendation.”
Why I will not recommend the book:
- Too confusing in its narrative
- Too pedantic in its descriptions
- Unnecessary literary “flights of fancy”
- Unnecessary length to narrative descriptions
- Basic story lacks attraction or drawing power
- Boring tale
It’s a ghost story without the fright!
Available at the PICKERING PUBLIC Library