Monday, 29 February 2016

Book Review: When We Were Alive by C J Fisher

When we first meet Bobby, he is a shy, twelve-year-old magician who falls in love with his best friend.
William is consumed with self-hate and drinks to escape the memories of his father’s sadness and his mother’s death.
Myles is writing letters to a mother he has never met.
Three different people from three different times each explore the dark side of relationships, search for beauty in sadness and try to bear the burden of guilt from living in a world we are powerless to fix.

Oh boy, this was a tough review to write.

I received an ARC from the publisher in return for an honest review. Which is why I am having trouble reviewing it - I do not like writing negative reviews - no one wants their work ripped to shreds.

I have to confess: overly literary fiction really isn't my thing - it reminds me of being back at school, being forced to read Mrs Dalloway (I think the most pointless book ever *ducks for cover*) and Hotel Du Lac (a close second). Nothing really happens, there's just rambling words that I'm sure are really very clever but I struggle to take in and end up feeling that I really must be quite stupid and ignorant, and definitely not an intellectual. Especially when other reviewers rave about it.

I know it is supposed to be thought-provoking, and it is cleverly written, but I read for pleasure, for escapism, and I found this a challenging read.

We have three main characters, Bobby, who we meet in the 1930s and whose story is told in the third person; in 2011 we have Myles's first person point of view shown through letters he has written to his mother; and nearly half-way through the book, William, in the 1970s, again in the third person. 

The characters are all very different, Bobby is obsessed with magic and illusion; William is an alcoholic and Myles, I think perhaps is somewhere on the Autism spectrum. He is a very different, exacting character.

The book is very descriptive and wordy, and unfortunately I found myself re-reading several paragraphs in order to make sense of the sentences, which led to me giving up and skimming such paragraphs. I did have to force myself to carry on to the end, and I am glad I did as I had been struggling to find any links between the characters, which of course did become apparent towards the end of the story. 

I do wish the author well with her book, and I'm sure it will do very well, and will be loved by plenty of people, who won't have any trouble in understanding and connecting with it. I sadly didn't particularly enjoy it.

1 comment:

  1. I did enjoy the book and worked out halfway through how all the characters were connected....that all went wrong in the last few pages. Who was Charlie? Who is Sam? I really need to know as it is frustrating me as I really loved the book up until the confusion at the end!