Almost English by Charlotte Mendelson
Shortlisted this novel may have been for the Orange prize, but it has been a warning to me as a writer. A warning that characters must be people readers like, empathise with, and so are willing to suspend disbelief and read on, wanting to know what happens to them.
I did my best to finish the book but gave up. Oh nothing wrong with the writing, Ms Mendelson is a skillful writer, she has a way with words and creates vivid settings. BUT her two MC women characters drove me nuts! I could not believe in a 17 year old student, Marina, aiming for Cambridge, so must have some brains, who is so bloody stupid that she believes a boy, a senior student at her school, who does not know her from Eve, but she has a crush on, will turn up at her home in London. He doesn't even live in London!
As for her wet, vacillating drip of a mother! Oh dear! Laura I found weak and just plain pathetic. The kind of person it is kindly said of that 'they do not know when to come in out of the rain.'
The London home, a flat belonging to the in-laws, is a vivid setting. Those Hungarian in-laws are larger than life characters and nicely 3D and comic, but the main characters...! Ah me! How can I empathsise with a woman who has remained living squeezed in to her in-laws' flat on a sofa bed because her husband disappeared some years ago. Her poor daughter she neglects and the pair of them droop and drip whilst their Hungarian in-laws stampede through life.
I am sure there will be lots of readers who roar with laughter as they read the novel and regard it as a literary 'Bridget Jone's Diary', another book I found unreadable. But I am sorry, I cannot feel for those MCs and the book is wasted on me.
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