What’s it about?
In this unnamed city, to be interesting is dangerous. Middle sister, our protagonist, is busy attempting to keep her mother from discovering her maybe-boyfriend and to keep everyone in the dark about her encounter with Milkman. But when first brother-in-law sniffs out her struggle, and rumours start to swell, middle sister becomes ‘interesting’. The last thing she ever wanted to be. To be interesting is to be noticed and to be noticed is dangerous.
It’s been a long time since I read a book that I really struggled to get to grips with but this was something else. It was our book club read for March and I was quite looking forward to the challenge. I’d seen other reviews that said the way in which it’s written as a flowing, continual, “stream of consciousness” is difficult to follow so I was prepared. I’d ordered my copy from the library but as back up also managed to get a free trial with Audible as I’d heard, again via 2 reliable book tubers, that listening to it was much easier (ain’t that the truth!).
The first thing that’s really noticeable is that all the characters (bar one) are not not named; referred to only by their relationship to the protagonist i.e. maybe boyfriend, younger sister, brother-in-law etc which I found awkward and unnecessary. It actually made me care less for them and consequently uninterested in their story. I didn’t like Daphne du Maurier doing this with Rebecca (I know, unpopular opinion) so before even starting the book I was kind of sure this wouldn’t work for me.
I found it repetitive, often thinking that I’d somehow managed to ‘rewind’ Audible and I was listening to the same passage again. Again, I wasn’t really sure why this necessary and just found it annoying. In all honesty, if I hadn’t have been reading this for book club I would never have made it to the end.
That said, I found the story of living in Northern Ireland during “The Troubles” really interesting and there were some real tragic and laugh out loud moments but overall I just didn’t care for the way in which it was told. There’s one thing I’ve taken away from this book and that was a tremendously sad moment when we hear the sisters’ father’s dying words about being abused which was horrifying and choke worthy!
100% a Marmite book!
p.s now I’ve all that…I’ve actually booked to see Anna Burns at this years Hay Festival. I was looking for 4pm slot filler and I did think it would be interesting to hear her reasoning for writing the book as she did! 😉
Small print for info
No of pages: 348
Publisher: Faber & Faber