Monday, October 26, 2020

Nature rarely disappoints

When I read the review of The Weekend by Charlotte Wood in the paper earlier this year, I was so excited I emailed two friends about it. In my last post I called it 'dreary.'  Yesterday I tried to finish it but ended up skim reading the last third. 

Since then I have been puzzling as to why a novel which I was so looking forward to reading, turned out to be so disappointing. 

I think I've worked it out. You would think that a novel about three women, old friends, spending a weekend together, would be rich in dialogue, wouldn't you? It isn't.

I'd say The Weekend is 35% description and action, 60% characters' introspection, and 5% dialogue - actually no, 2% dialogue. There is as much said to the dog-who-should-have-been-put-down-years-ago as there is to any of the 'friends.' And actually, the dialogue isn't even dialogue: it's speech.

It's often isolated statements with no response, such as:

'I've got a list.'

'I hope you don't get hydatids.'

'I charmed them.'

Whatever... Charlotte Wood is a best selling author, and a lot of people enjoyed this book. I am not saying it was not a good book: I'm just saying it wasn't for me. 

I have this one last niggling thought, though - if Charlotte Wood (55) was the same age as her characters (who are in their seventies), would there have been more dialogue? Is there none because she doesn't know what they would say?

My recent walks and the autumn colours have not been disappointing.

p.s. if I ever write a book about three women friends sharing living space you can be sure it will be packed with dialogue. 


Phoebe said...

I had the same experience with The Weekend. Looked forward to my library e-hold, and then didn’t enjoy it at all. Maybe it was the erroneous description, overemphasizing its single similarity to The Big Chill? It felt as if the author wrote down a list of traits and then distributed them among her characters; those traits and the characters’ histories felt arbitrary imposed.

Maybe the author would have been better off concentrating on one character (writer with alienated kids?) or woman sacrificing her life for love but this sequence of square dance steps certainly didn’t work.

Sue Hepworth said...

I’m pleased it wasn’t just me. And yet, Phoebe, a lot of reviews on Amazon are very positive. Is it a marmite book? You love it or you hate it?

Phoebe said...

Reviews on Amazon are problematic - you don’t know who those people are and whether you can trust them. When looking for things to read I check Amazon reviews only to see the percentage of stars allotted, to get a sense of things in aggregate. Kirkus tends to be more reliable. Re love it or hate it: that assertion is made for all kinds of things but I rarely feel that way about a book, even when I steer someone away from a title I didn’t enjoy. Generally It’s not that I hate it, but rather that its inadequacies mean it doesn’t merit one’s time.

Sue Hepworth said...

That's an interesting way of looking at it.
I think I say I 'hate' a book when it has had rave press reviews and when there's been literary hype about it and I find I really don't like it or there are legitimate objective criticisms I could make of it. e.g. My Brilliant Friend; and Stoner.

Phoebe said...

Yes, that’s a kind of inflamed disappointment. I know what you mean about hype and those two titles.I did like Stoner, thought it was subtly beautiful, while for me the acclaim for My brilliant Friend is a mystery.