Category Archives: Adult

The Murdstone Trilogy

Mal Peet

David Fickling Books

9781910200155

October 2014

hardback

Finished

I was looking forward to The Murdstone Trilogy, A Novel by Mal Peet as soon as I got wind of it. I read it last week, in a couple of sittings.
What a superbly entertaining satire it is.
Not only is it not a trilogy but, at just a little over 300 generously line-spaced pages, it is also economical in its one-volume-ness.
The main character, a single man and writer called Philip Murdstone, is completely believable. His career is going down the proverbial pan. Sales are derisory.
Cue for his agent, the magnificently conceived Minerva Cinch, to persuade Murdstone to try his hand at writing a fantasy, since that is all the rage.
I was laughing out loud (chuckling out loud to be more accurate, since most of my reading was done on a train, and I’m someone who rarely laughs aloud while reading anyway) from the word go.
And it wasn’t always the satirical digs at the ways and wiles of the publishing world that struck me as amusing (though it has to be said those who are most intimately familiar with that world are the most likely to get most pleasure from reading the book) – no, it is often just the pure observational genius of Peet’s writing that raises a smile, as in “Like most solitary men, he has a wide repertoire of groans.”
Peet has mischievous fun with the two librarians in the book, Francine and Merilee, known as the Weird Sisters. It’s always a pleasure when they enter the stage.
Murdstone agrees, under great pressure from Minerva, to attempt a fantasy – initially to no avail. Eventually, with a bit of help from a guest ale called Dark Entropy, some time alone amid a stone circle on Dartmoor, and a certain dwarfish creature called Pocket Wellfair, the fantasy gets written.
Lovers of the genre will need to possess their own sense of humour to appreciate Peet’s clever passages of pastiche as he shows us examples of the quest Murdstone is working on.
It’s probably fair to say that the book’s most appreciative audience will be those who share Peet’s own obvious bemusement at the popularity of High Fantasy of a certain ilk.

The Rest Is Silence

Carla Guelfenbein

Portobello Books

1846272319

May 2011

Kindle

Finished

A claustrophobically, atmospheric and bleak novel that identifies each section’s voice by means of a symbol. I was deeply intrigued at the start of the novel, particularly by the voice of Tommy, a boy with a weak heart, but as the book develops the reader becomes more involved with the character of Tommy’s heart-surgeon father and with Alma, the woman now married to him, Tommy’s mother having committed suicide at some point in the past.

The book floundered somewhat in its middle section, and I struggled to stay with it. I’m not sure the downbeat conclusion repaid the effort.

 

Perfect Architect

Jayne Joso

Alcemi

9780956012524

May 2011

181 pp

Whole book read

Yes

This caught my eye. It has a simple but distinctive red jacket design and I have always been interested in the life of architects.
The start of the novel is told exclusively in an exchange of letters between the recently widowed Gaia (whose husband had been one of the leading architects of his time) and Selene. Initially, Gaia suspects she is writing to a young mistress of her dead husband, and the gradual disabusing of this notion is humorously and very beguilingly handled. Indeed, Selene is a delightfully witty and life-affirming creation.
It is something of a shame that the novel could not have been conceived as a wholly epistolary construction, because when the action moves away from the exchange of letters and the compelling relationship between Gaia and Selene, the novel loses its hold on the reader to the extent that the resulting four-way competition to design the perfect home for Gaia to move into and reconstruct her life in never achieves any traction. Whilst the letters are perfectly pitched, Joso is less assured when it comes to character dialogue. The American architect in particular is an embarrassing pastiche.
Nevertheless, I’m glad it caught my eye.