I picked this hardback up from work as it is currently featured as one of the ‘Waterstones Bookclub’ titles. My feelings towards this book rose and wavered almost throughout its entirety, but I would describe it less as an emotional rollercoaster and more as a slow, broken merry-go-round which had occasional spurts of remembrance as to the exciting ride it once was.
Occasionally I like to challenge my own preconceptions by picking up a book I would not usually bother with (whether that be because of the subject matter, size or target age group), this is one such book. I’m sad to say that I don’t feel that ‘Thank god I read this!’ buzz I get from many other books I read.
We enter immediately into Ben and Helen Armstead’s broken relationship; Ben’s mental decline into depression has affected him to the point that they must attend secret counselling sessions for him to even speak to Helen… I padded on, feeling nothing towards Ben and Helen’s broken marriage and seeming loss of ‘power’ which ensued for the well-respected couple; I simply put this down to my personal views of life- with no desire to be ‘powerful’ I had no way of empathising with this as the running theme of the book. (Later enforced with the introduction of a fallen celebrity- if there was ever a way to even further disconnect me from the story…) I usually enjoy family dramas, I recently devoured ‘Ghana Must Go’ by Taiye Selasi, but this one felt somewhat muted.
Now, there was a moment, towards the beginning of the book which made me gasp. Out loud. And there lies the reason I continued on to the end. Despite my reservations I thought, this is clearly a talented writer and I expect he will provide more of these moments; just when I think it’s going one way, he’ll jam a spanner right hard into it and I’ll be flabbergasted. No such luck.
The ending felt unresolved but not in a way where I went on to dream up endings for myself, instead I felt completely emotionally detached the moment I closed the cover. I wish I could be more encouraging about this book but I just didn’t warm the characters and really, I think that is the key to enjoying any story.