Challenge 5 – “A book with a number in the title.”
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
I was rather disappointed with this book. It fits the plot outlined by the blurb, but in the least potential-fulfilling way possible. The storyline could have gone two ways – as a deep investigation into the characters, or into the issues around the main plot – and yet whilst the characters were strong, there was no depth to the novel. There was some redemption around halfway through, but on the whole I was unimpressed.
The novel of the beginning was a trudge. It took almost a third of the novel for the scene to be set, but during this time there was nothing to hook the reader in. There were brief allusions to Laurence’s feelings as he realised his mother was gone, but the main focus seemed to be the radio show. A show which, as the novel progressed, took more and more of a backseat role.
Once the characters had been set, and it was clear Mrs Roach wasn’t returning anytime soon, the novel seemed to pick up. Multiple subplots came into play, overlapping and twisting, to create a more complex shape within the novel, but this faded away as soon as it began. It was then only determination left to carry the reader through the final few chapters. By this point, as a reader, one is glad there are only a few chapters left, but in regard of the book as a whole, it just means that the ending is a little rushed and uncertain. After the adventures of the whole novel, everything is suddenly alright again.
The blurb presents the novel as if it explores the themes of post maternal depression, child neglect and abandonment, but these are barely skimmed as the plot passes by. This would have worked had the novel been a deep study of characters connected to such themes, but it just meant that the book felt as if there was no substance. Cousins manages to craft his characters well – Mina being a saving grace to the novel – and the momentum achieved through the fair and subsequent scenes illustrates his talent at shaping a novel. Overall, however, the novel betrays Cousins true capabilities, creating a wishy-washy tale with no true thematic or character exploration, that leaves the reader uninspired and unfulfilled.