Thursday, October 4, 2012

The House of Memories by Monica McInerney

I have had mixed opinions of Monica McInerney's previous books. I liked The Alphabet Sisters, loved Those Faraday Girls, thought At Home with the Templetons was interesting but uneven and hated Lola's Secret (dear publishing gods, please spare us from any more books that center on wise, all-knowing elderly women who know how to use technology and are able to use their wisdom and all-knowingness to communicate with young people. These women are unsufferable and make me want to throw things - ie the book I'm reading that features these irritating protagonists - at the wall. Thank you.), so I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. Either way, McInerney has a nice, easy writing style, so I figured even if her new book wasn't great it would be a relaxing way to spend a few hours away from the high stress levels of my everyday life ("CAPS LOCK IS HOW I FEEL ALL THE TIME, RICK!"). Boy, was I wrong.

The House of Memories opens with a chapter detailing the childhood of Ella Fox/Baum/O'Hanlon and the special relationship she has with her uncle, Lucas. After we wade through the standard broken-home childhood tale (parents divorce, remarry, step-brother, new baby, jealously, et cetera cetera et cetera) we get to the crux of the story - Ella's baby has died. The book then separates into chapters told from the point of view of different characters, with some (very annoying) email chapters and others alternating between the first and third chapter.

I have no problem with having multiple narrators, even if (as is clearly signposted in this book ALL THE TIME for the benefit of those who have memory problems, I imagine) these narrators are unreliable. I have no problem with epistolary writing - The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Pie Society is one of my favourite books. What I do have a problem with is books that are so predictable that, after reading the third chapter, it is possible to plot what happens in every chapter until the end. There is pleasure in reading genre fiction - it's nice to know that the right couple will get together in the end in a romance novel, for example - so I understand that books can be about the journey rather than the destination. But if both the journey and the destination suck...step away from the book.

I am a bit bummed about contemporary fiction at the moment. Ian McEwan's Sweet Tooth was a massive disappoint. I started Zadie Smith's new book NW but abandoned it because of the stream-of-consciousness writing style. This book completely sucked. Am I picking bad books, or has the standard of published works dropped recently? I'm about to start Gone Girl, which has received great reviews. If that sucks as well, I might stop reading anything published after the turn of the century and stick to books that have passed the test of time!

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