So here it is: the first book review I've published since 5 April, precisely 6 months ago. You have been warned. Regrettably, the novel at the top of the stack is not one about which I have many good things to say.
The possibility of one of my children dying before me haunts my sleep. I have nightmares of attending their funerals. I can’t even think about it so this is a hard post to write and it was an even harder book to read.
The worst possibly scenario is my children dying because of something I did: my driving, my carelessness. I imagine the rubbish that would become our lives. I doubt I would recover. Ever.
So I was interested in what Caroline Smails had to say about this scenario in her book Like Bees to Honey. She didn’t hold my attention long and my interest waned.
Nina is a dull character and I felt the personality flaws were used as a way of making her more interesting. I found it made her less sympathetic and more annoying. Christopher is predictable (the "shock revelation" didn't surprise me at all) and the constant repetition of words, phrases, and noises quickly became irritating and I began to imagine that maybe Ms Smails didn’t have much of a handle on this topic either. And she certainly didn’t have much of a book. Without this repetition she certainly had a few 10,000 less words which if deleted could have left her with little more than a short story.
I entertained the possibility that the purpose of this repetition was to make the point that Nina was living her tragedy over and over, is the road through the grief and just needs things pounded into her head. But the affect on the reader is pure boredom and frustration, like someone is pounding you on the head. I felt Ms Smails used this device repeatedly thinking maybe her reader wouldn’t realise how recovering from the death of your child might be difficult. Sure wish she’d give us more credit than that.
The preaching of Jesus to Tilly using her own words was painful to read. I hope when/if Jesus ever speaks to me he doesn’t speak to me like I speak. I hope he has something more clever to say than I could ever come up with.
There is a small passage in the cave at Il Madonna Talghar that is beautiful and captures what a small step towards recovery from such a tragedy might feel like. But it is over way too soon and this skillful writing doesn’t appear anywhere else in the book.
Ms Smails might have some talent but I think she needs a bit more time to refine her next novel and maybe a better editor.
PS In the book group, none of the women liked it but the one man did. Go figure!