25 March 2007

Book Review: The Heather Blazing by Colm Tóibín

New Year’s Reading Resolutions #6

The Heather Blazing This is the story of Eamon Redmond, an aging Irish judge; both in the present, as he faces the prospect of retirement and the loss of his wife, and in the past, as he reflects on his younger days and his family’s connections to Ireland’s political struggles. And ... that’s it, really. This is definitely more about character than plot.

I thought this book would be perfect for my New Year’s reading challenge, as I’m six books behind and hoping to cheat adapt by choosing shorter books. An unfounded hope in this case, as despite having only 243 pages it still took a week to read. Why? Because it was, quite frankly, boring. I kept waiting for something to happen to make the effort of reading worthwhile, but nothing did. And there were no flashes of humour or delightful characters or thought-provoking content (unless you like politics) to compensate. I made it through the first 150 pages by deciding that for every chapter of Tóibín, I would read one of P.C. Cast. By that point I had gotten into the book just enough to be able to keep going on my own, but I could easily have quit without missing knowing what happened. I never felt the least curiosity about any of the characters.

I didn’t much care for Tóibín’s prose style either. The review excerpts in the front of the book described it as ‘stark’ and ‘pared’, and this sometimes creates a vaguely disjointed effect, like when there’s eight or nine sentences in a row that start with ‘He’. He did this, he did that, he did the next thing and the next ... I was almost tempted to take some sentences at random and jumble them up to see whether the result was noticeably different from the original text.

There was a brief glimmer of historical interest to be had from a few references to early-twentieth-century Irish history, but apart from that there was little but tedium.

Rating: C-


Anonymous said...

I enjoy the style you employ to review books (especially the one's you don't care for). Keep reading!

Amat Libris said...

Thank you! I brace myself for objections whn I post unflattering reviews, but I never expected complements!

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Header image shows detail of A Young Girl Reading by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, c. 1776