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04 August 2014 @ 09:12 pm
There's a few hours I'll never get back  
Colleen McCullough's Angel is one of those books that you just can't put down, mainly because you're racing to see if it gets any better, all the while despairing that it's getting progressively worse when you didn't think it possible. It's written in diary form and try as she might, the author just can't pull off the voice of a twentyone year old in 1960 and have it sound at all authentic. On top of which I found the main character Harriet to be rather obnoxious, and couldn't muster up any sympathy for her at all.

The premise is attractive - young naive girl moves out of home into a boarding house in the Cross, where she meets a cast of very interesting people. In fact the supporting characters were all much more interesting than the narrator. . Her landlady, Mrs Delvecchio Schwartz, is a fortune teller with a large clientele from the blue-rinse set; she has a daughter, Angel, who never speaks but scribbles on the walls incessantly. We're led to believe - or rather, we're told, that Harriet fell in love with this child immediately, although all we ever see is that Harriet babysits Angel once a week for a couple of hours while the mother spends time with her current lover. It comes as a real surprise, after the landlady dies, to learn that Harriet is prepared to give up her career in order to adopt Angel if she can, because the relationship really didn't seem that close.

McCullough touches on social issues of the time; we're repeated told that Harriet earns a mans' wage as an Xray technician, there's mention of a lesbian being badly raped and beaten by police at the instigation of her disgusted father, and gays just aren't widely accpeted - except by Harriet, of course, who having grown up in a nice suburban middle class family of course has no prejudices at all. She's also shed her middle-class mores for a more freewheeling attitude to sex and love. However one constantly feels like the author is on her soapbox about culture and attitudes, and is trying far too hard to capture the feel of the times. For example all of the characters don't just drink brandy, they drink threestar hospital brandy, and one never pours it into a glass but rather into a Kraft cheese glass. Seriously the author felt the need to name the brandy and glasses every.single.time.

And the ending - can you say "trite"? Tying up all the loose ends so nicely! Of course it turns out that the landlady was rich, and had left everything to Harriet who it turns out is a long-lost relative.

It's books like this that send me back to fanfic.
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Current Mood: disappointeddisappointed
 
 
 
mrua7mrua7 on August 4th, 2014 02:01 pm (UTC)
I know how you feel, pressing on to see if it gets better. I once read the sequel to 'Angela's Axhes"...called "'Tis". It was pure unaculterated filthy trash, but I forced myself to finish it...it didn't get any better. I wasn't a fan of Angela's Ashes, and even less of it's sequel now too.

So I won't bother with your spoilers...a poorly written book is just that and not worth a look.
miwahni: Cats Literary Catmiwahni on August 6th, 2014 10:57 am (UTC)
I enjoyed Angela's Ashes. If I went on to read "Tis" it mustn't have made any impression on me because I don't remember it at all.

So I won't bother with your spoilers...a poorly written book is just that and not worth a look.

Life is too short to read poorly written books, or even reviews of poorly written books. *g*
mrua7mrua7 on August 6th, 2014 11:52 am (UTC)
The people of Limerick were in an uproar over Angela's Ashes as they felt he'd over-exaggerated so much. In that book you got the impression that his mother died in poverty, but in reality she was well taken care of by him and his brother Malachy and they brought her to America...

My family was from Limerick and recall walking about, finding the places he talked about in the book. The poverty was real, but other things...hmmm, I wonder.

Anyway, like you, time reading those books will be time I'll never get back...chuckle.
miwahni: Cats Literary Catmiwahni on August 7th, 2014 11:05 am (UTC)
I wonder why he felt the need to over-exaggerate - more dramatic, I guess, as a storyline. But there's a fine line between dramatised biography and fiction, and it sounds as though he crossed it.
mrua7mrua7 on August 7th, 2014 12:36 pm (UTC)
Agreed! Will have to google to see if he was able to defend against said accusations. (sadly he's since passed away)
byslantedlight: Bookshelf colour (grey853).byslantedlight on August 4th, 2014 05:41 pm (UTC)
Oh no... I remember liking McCullough's books in the past, I wonder is this just one poor one, or if her writing's changed - or if I just had more lenient tastes back then... *g* Isn't it weird that books that seem dreadful can be professionally published, books that seem wonderful never are, and that some people seem to love the books that we think are dreadful...
miwahni: Cats Literary Catmiwahni on August 6th, 2014 11:01 am (UTC)
I'm not sure if it's her writing, or my taste. I loved "The Thorn Birds" when I first read it in the early 80s and went out to buy another copy when my original copy fell apart. "Tim" I enjoyed, and I loved "Troy" as well as the whole Roman series... but I didn't like "A Creed for the Third Millenium" and I thought "An Indecent Obsession" was trash, this book even more so. And that's also the order in which I read them, but not the order in which they were written, so make of that what you will. *g*