July 1969. While men are walking on the moon, life in London for sixteen-year-old Jane takes unexpected turns. On the point of falling in love with her best friend Karl, she discovers that there's more to her father's spectacular girlfriend than at first meets the eye. In the sweltering heat of a fast-moving evening, other revelations quickly follow, reconciling Jane with her father but also reopening wounds from the past, laying bare raw emotions kept suppressed for too long. And as the evening draws to a close, the night's drama has only just begun, unfolding in a sequence of violent events that threaten to have lasting repercussions for Jane and the people she loves... Lightened by a gentle touch of humor, with magic tricks, sexuality and family secrets all playing a prominent part, The Madness of Grief is a mystery and a thriller contained in a coming-of-age tale of friendship, betrayal and loss.
I read the Kindle edition of this.
If you look at Goodreads, this novel has been rated four to five stars almost across the board. I did see a few threes and a two, but it seems that the consensus is that this was the best book people have ever read. And I have to ask, what the hell did I miss? Why did this book get such high praises when I literally skimmed the final half of this book because I could not take any more of this.
Alright. So be forewarned that this review might be spoilery. I’m finding it hard to review this novel without dissecting it a bit.
I won’t deny that the language in the novel is well above average. This book was filled with highlights, which I won’t deny I enjoyed.
“A tortured man but a marvellous writer, complex and yet also entirely simple. As I always say, one is never too young to be reading Kafka, and never too old to be reading him differently.”
I’m going to venture that because of quotes like this, it was easy to get distracted by the flaws. At first I found myself distracted, but then as I read on, and became increasingly bored and disturbed, I realized that this book is horribly flawed.
The two major issues I had about this book was the characters and the pacing.
The characters were not well developed, to the point where they were caricatures of themselves. Jane was insufferably boring. She had no personality and spends all her time reading Kafka and pining after an older boy who sexually assults her, only for her to completely forgive him because reasons (at this point I started skimming). Her father commits suicide when Jane discovers his girlfriend Mia Mia is really a man called Jack and her aunt has an important sculputure stolen. And all these events take place in the space of 24 hours.
After all these events happened, I started skimming. The story was just so convuluted at that point and everyone and everything was just absolutely terrible. It almost seemed like it was a satire, but sadly, that wasn’t the case.
It was good that this wasn’t a long book, but at the same time I think that the length was a hindrance. If it was longer, the plot and the characters would have had more time to grow and develop more naturally. I think that there was some good potential there, just not enough room for it to come out. Which was a shame because I really think that this writer has some talent for prose.
Rating: one star