I want to write more book reviews, and share what I’ve been reading, but I don’t want to bore you. So, after some thought, I’ve decided to introduce a new way of reviewing on my blog. Pocket-sized book reviews, all less than 500 words long, with no spoilers, to give you an idea of what you’re in for once you turn the first page. This is hopefully the first of many. I hope you enjoy – it’s a corker.
You’ll probably recognise him as the author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, but Mark Haddon is much more than the man who wrote the (amazing) book about dead dogs…though from the looks of things, death seems to be a common theme in his work.
The Pier Falls, which was published just over a year ago in hardback, is his latest piece of work, and I managed to get my hands on a copy back in March thanks to trying my luck in a Twitter competition. I’d heard whispers on the wind (read: social media) that it was one to add to the To Be Read (TBR) list, so was very excited to get stuck in.
That is, until I saw these replies to my excited ‘can’t wait to read it’ tweet, and decided to hide from it a bit (I stopped just short of putting it in the freezer a la Joey from Friends).
You can’t blame me, can you? Look at those responses.
A couple of months later, I finally plucked up the courage and started reading in a relaxing bath one Sunday night.
My first reactions were ones of simultaneous rapture and horror. The folk of twitter were right. This was dark stuff – deceptively dark for a book with such an ambiguously pleasant cover.
(Yes, I know, I shouldn’t judge, etc. etc. But I do, a bit.)
I read on over a period of weeks, finding myself wrapped up in a sort of morbid fascination. I turned each page willing for a happy ending, hoping for hope; but each story was filled with darkness, death, gloom and desolation.
But it was still so good.
It wasn’t a relaxing, pleasant read which leaves you feeling content and safe and in love with life. Instead, it may leave you questioning the futility of it all; you might even launch yourself out of the bath, mentally proclaiming “When will this pain and sadness end?!”
But, it is stunningly written, with such an eye for detail and so much realism. Characters are carefully constructed before they’re killed off, and there are spots of black humour here and there. The stand-out stories, for me, were ‘The Pier Falls’, ‘Wodwo’ and ‘The Woodpecker and the Wolf’. ‘Wodwo’ was my favourite for sure.
Haddon addresses the subjects of death, loss, doom and pain in unexpected ways, in everyday places, and with a skill I’ve not seen before. It really made me stop and think. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed darkness and destruction so much.
If you like Black Mirror, you will love this book. If you like to be made to feel, and ask questions, and sit on the edge of your seat, you will also love this book. If you like happy endings, likeable characters and a mind-numbing bedtime read…don’t bother.
One final warning: you’ll never relax on a pier again. Bye bye, Brighton.
Have you read The Pier Falls? Let me know in the comments below!