Sunday, September 07, 2008

the second last book I read

The Promise of Happiness by Justin Cartwright.

Charles and Daphne Judd have retreated to rural Cornwall to see out their retirement. Their three children have pursued differing paths: youngest Sophie does some unspecified gofer-ing job in the advertising industry in London and is cultivating an affair with an older colleague and a drug habit; middle child Charlie is about to become a dotcom millionaire from his online sock-selling business and is shortly to become a husband and father with his exotic girlfriend Ana; oldest child Juliet is about to be released from prison in America after serving a two-year sentence for her involvement in the theft of a Tiffany stained-glass window from a New York graveyard.

It would be remiss of me not to mention Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections at this point, as there are a number of similarities between that novel and this one, although this one gets its similar business out of the way a lot more economically (306 pages instead of 653) - the mother organising the family reunion as a desperate attempt to bring everyone together, the black sheep/prodigal son/daughter threatening to throw a spanner in the works, the increasingly eccentric father doing his best to do the same.

Like The Corrections, my main complaint is an entirely unreasonable one of structure and my expectations thereof - specifically, that the implicit point everything is building up to (Juliet's homecoming to her parents' house in Cornwall) is constantly delayed by flashbacks and digressions to the point where it seems almost an afterthought tacked on right at the end, and seems to be resolved a bit too glibly to be convincing. Given that that's an unreasonable criticism, I'd have to say I enjoyed it. Also, just as an aside, the term "keester bunny" really is a genuine slang term used in prisons.

No comments: