Thursday, 22 October 2009

A Perfectly Good Family - Lionel Shriver

A Perfectly Good Family (2007) is a novel by Lionel Shriver, a writer who has received much acclaim for her novels We Need to Talk About Kevin and The Post-Birthday World, both of which are on my TBR (to be read) list.

I guess that, at the heart of things, this novel is about families and the many and various dysfunctions that can exist between members, even among those which outwardly appear "perfect". Families have individual and collective personalities, histories, and a whole host of "issues", which ultimately affect their relationships with each other and those around them. I just wish it were put this simply in A Perfectly Good Family.

Sheer perseverance is what helped me finish this book. I began having my doubts around page 40. Page 90 saw me searching online for reviews and commentaries to either encourage me to continue or decide to stop reading. I questioned my resolve around page 180, and today was determined to knock off the final 50 or so pages, but I'll freely admit that, even at only 277 pages long, I've been dancing dangerous close to #BookFAIL territory.

The tension was laid on thickly, yet the story never really went anywhere. The scene is set, reset, and embellished, with endless explorations into the main characters' psyches, yet I ended up still not really knowing them, and not feeling empathy for any of them. They certainly weren't likable, either individually or collectively, and even their redeeming characteristics did little to help the reader make a connection with them. Grudges and bad moods were seemingly endless; the resolution was rather "too good to be true", or perhaps too convenient, to be believable.

There's no doubt that Shriver is an intelligent author, and my vocabulary has been challenged somewhat, but to what purpose? I was reminded of how I felt when reading A Painted House by John Grisham; the atmosphere was supercharged, yet nothing came of it.

Lionel Shriver will remain on my TBR list. Perhaps it's a good thing that I read this novel before the "big" ones so as to avoid disappointment further down the track?

1 comment:

Kelly said...

We Need To Talk About Kevin is one of my absolute favourite books but I fear Ms Shriver might be one of those authors that only has one decent book in her. I can't get into any of her others at all.

BTW - here's an interesting article from the about A Perfectly Good Family which you might find interesting