How many miniature quiches can you eat without coming to the conclusion that it’s only so much stodge?
Indeed. I’ve just finished wading through this turgid, uninspired and uninspring book that must come close to being the worst, most pointless novel I’ve read. You have to ask – how does a book like this get published? The characters are unformed – there’s little sense of their interior lives or their physical appearances – and the episodes that make up the narrative are described in dreary prose extended over endless pages. Who was the literary editor who let all this stand? How did it get on the Booker shortlist?
Both the Guardian and Observer were highly critical of the book; this is the Observer:
…the plot lurches from non-existence – shrubs are pruned, chilli con carne is prepared – to wild melodrama. Katherine Glover, Daniel and Tim’s mother, finds out that her florist boss and one-time crush was using the business for money laundering and ends up testifying in court. Another character is eaten by a shark (though not in Sheffield, obviously).
Hensher is deeply involved with his characters – he tells us their every thought, their every move – yet I could not escape the uncomfortable feeling that he is sometimes patronising them, with their nice little local supermarkets, and their dried flowers in glass domes.
More difficult still is his refusal ever to describe what they look like or even, having failed to do that, to define their characters: the Glovers and the Sellers are almost universally diffident, gauche, shy, vague and elusive…
Sorry, I can’t waste any more time on this.