Monday, July 25, 2011

Unmitigated misery

This is an extract from a review of a paperback book which appeared on Saturday in the Guardian Review.
…an ambitious young architect builds a dream house by a lake near Berlin. Almost immediately, catastrophe strikes as the landowner's daughter commits suicide and the Jewish neighbours refuse to move "despite being offered almost half the value of their property". A Red Army recruit rapes the architect's wife before the house becomes the property of a persecuted intellectual imprisoned for trying to swim away to the west…
The book is literary fiction. It is beautifully written, apparently.
Tell me, does the book appeal to you?
Why is it that the majority of the novels reviewed in the serious papers are miserable?
It was Carol Shields, winner of many literary prizes, including the Pulitzer and the Orange prize, that showed me that a book can be beautifully written and be about ordinary life, ordinary happiness and unhappiness, not unmitigated trauma and misery. Who is carrying the torch, now that she is no longer here?


galant said...

It does seem that books reviewed in certain papers must be 'worthy', 'serious' (for which read 'grim') ... I certainly would not want to read the book you described. Sadly, not yet read Carol Sheilds and I certainly don't know who has been handed the torch for the good-yet-ordinary scenario although there are some excellent women novelists out there who write simply on family matters which don't focus on suicide and rape ... Sarah Challis and Amanda Brookfield, for example.
Margaret P

Sue Hepworth said...

do try Carol Shields! - Happenstance, The Stone Diaries, Larry's party, Unless, etc etc.