Thursday, 27 October 2011

Last Read: Lost by Gregory Maguire

Lost - Gregory Maguire

I'm an avid reader of crime fiction novels based in the Victorian era. It's quite specific, I know. So I jump at the chance to read one when I find one.
With Lost I judged a book by it's cover. Hmm. To be frank, I often do, usually Victorian mystery books have a very distinctive style to the cover design. If I had seen the other cover designs for this book I probably wouldn't have picked it up. In essence this book wasn't what I thought it was, though perhaps the synopsis should have told me that. Here it is:

A compelling ghost story from the internationally bestselling author of WICKED Winifred Rudge, a writer struggling to get beyond the runaway success of her mass-market astrology book, travels to London to start her new novel about the ghost of Jack the Ripper. Upon her arrival, she finds that her step-cousin and old friend John Comestor has disappeared, and a ghostly presence seems to have taken over his home. Is the spirit Winnie's great-great-grandfather, who, family legend claims, was Charles Dickens's childhood inspiration for Ebenezer Scrooge? Could it be the ghostly remains of Jack the Ripper? Or a phantasm derived from a more arcane and insidious origin? Winnie begins to investigate and finds herself the unwilling audience for a drama of specters and shades - some from her family's peculiar history and some from her own unvanquished past.

Yes it sounds ridiculous but sometimes I've found these far-fetched sounding books can turn out to be a good read, with a logical explanation at the end. Not so here. I didn't really enjoy it all.
Firstly, I had never heard of the author before and he writes in a very 'American' style. He is American. Fair enough. But considering this was based in London I expected the author, or at least the character to be English. American authors aren't really my thing unless I'm reading a classic like On The Road (it's a Jack Kerouac masterpiece - if you haven't read it - do so).
That aside, the storyline it's self was constantly interrupted by an irritating story-in-story. The protagonist is an author herself and it seems like she remembering/reading a story of her own which is quickly cut into. Sometimes this lasts for a few pages. There are also random poems and verses cut in too and to overall result was tedious. I found myself skipping these parts, which almost certainly had a key part in the ending, due to the frequency and the seemly irrelevant nature of them. Really, I was reading a book about somebody trying to write a book interrupted by another book which may or not be fact or fiction.
This built to create an annoying protagonist whose mind constantly wondered, and was unable to focus on anything. You could argue that the author reflected this in his writing style, but for me it was too much. Combine that with the ridiculous plot and the unreal characters it made for a dull read that I couldn't wait to finish.
But I did finish it. It really does take a lot for me to abandon a book.

Verdict: It reminded me of an adult version of the Goosebumps novels I used to read as a kid. But then again I just don't get fantasy for adults, I fee like I grew out of it years ago. However if you like the genre, Maguire may well be an author worth following, he certainly seems to have a good catalogue behind him.

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