Tuesday, 16 March 2010

A Year in Books 2010 - The Believers




Sometimes you do wonder who on earth is marketing books at the main publishers. Zoë Heller's previous book "Notes on the Scandal" dealt with the fall out of a teacher / pupil affair and the web of manipulation an older teacher spins as a consequence . It was a lot more of a subtle affair than the resulting film , which had Judi Dench's character get a bit too close to Misery territory.

Her latest book is built around a well off American liberal middle class family and has a lot in common with Jonathan Franzen's the Corrections . Someone at Penguin has made the bizarre decision to sell Heller's books as "Chick Lit". That is the only reason if a totally misguided reason I can think of for such and awful cover. The book has got a broad appeal ,however, it has a cover that means I'm loathed to read it on the tube in case people think I'm reading confessions of a "shopaholic yummy mummy" . Yes I know I shouldn't be so shallow and this shouldn't bother me but it does. Perhaps the salient point is that if I hadn't already read "Notes on a Scandal" there isn't a chance that I'd have picked this up.

Anyway back to the book. The story focuses on the family of Joel a celebrated human rights lawyer and how they react when he firstly falls into a coma and then they discover the true extent of his infidelities. We follow Audrey,the English mother (a bitch from hell) and and her dominated children - the adopted Luke who is relapsed drug addict, Rosa who much to tithe family's horror is discovering religion and Karla who is unsure about her own marraige and adoption plans . The novel focuses on how each of these 4 characters cope both with Joel's coma and the fact that they didn't know him as well as they all thought.

The book starts with a prologue of how Joel and Audrey met and continues to flit back and forth in time as you start to piece together how they all ended up the people the now are.

The main problem with the novel is that the character of Audrey is so strong and well written that the others seem to pale in her presence. When she is there she gets all the best lines (a lot of the humour comes from some of the outrageous things she says) and when the focus switched to other characters the pace of my reading picked up as I wanted to get to her again as soon as I could. Everytime you start to feel a shred of sympathy for her she comes out with somehting even more outrageously awful.

As I said it reminds me of the Corrections (although not as good) but at about 1/2 the size, so if you liked that book, then this is worth a go (if you can put up with the cover that is)



You can buy The Believers here

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