The Book Collector (not me, the evil sort)
I picked up ‘The Book Collector’ by Alice Thompson as a nice, spooky, Gothic, and hopefully indulgently bookish. Something light to add to the heavier books I am trying to all get cleared out of the way in time for the new year.
Firstly, the baby lives. To any of you have read my moans about kids, dogs, cats, and hamsters dying in books, I was braced and ready all the way through for it to turn really sour, and while others were bumped off, and the central character, Violet, suffered with post-natal depression, it did look a bit dicey for a while there, but if you are sensitive to these things, fear not.
However, it’s was disappointing on a few levels. One of the reasons I bought it was because it said it is set in the Edwardian era, but there are no nods to its chosen period. If anything, the book feels blandly without a time. The way the servants, the heroin, and a shop assistant behaved all jarred with an Edwardian environment, even how the couple met seemed a little strange, and the class get between them. Of course people don’t want clumsy references to household items items and world politics all over the place, but we are products of our times. I’m also currently reading a Barbara Pym set when it was written in the sixties, and from the food to the vocabulary of people, it pure, smooth, 1960s. Alice Thompson’s simple clean writing and the lack of details may have been designed to add to the mystery, but to me, it just came off vague due to not really being fully researched. The asylum she is taken to was mercifully less brutal than something Sarah Waters conjures up, such as in ‘Fingersmith’, but also a lot less real and memorable.
The ending arrived very quickly, one of those times when you flick through the final pages and can’t see how the story will be satisfactorily resolved in so few words, and so no surprise when it wasn’t. It was as if the author had enough of the whole thing and just decided to get it over with as quickly as possible.
I did enjoy it as I was reading it, I did want to know what happened, and if someone said would I rather read it hundred times or read Don Quixote once, I’d absolutely do the former.