17 March, 2012

Decision time

Tosca Lee

So, when i began this, a few pages in, i was not overly joyed at the prospect. On the plus side, well it was recommended by someone whose taste i trust; on the minus, why read about someone whose situation is remarkably like mine own? Clay, the first person protagonist, is recently separated and divorced, by his wife's choice not his, and is still not over the relationship; he feels he has nothing to live for but his work, currently, and that is no longer giving him the pleasure it once did; though it is self-imposed, he is experiencing banishment from the places he once felt comfortable and at home, because they are all places he enjoyed with his wife; he has a religious background, and perhaps at one point had commitment, but is currently undecided or indifferent. Not in every respect are Clay and i similar, but in sufficient, and sufficiently unpleasing, ways we are, and i was not certain i wanted to continue.

I did, though, and i have to admit that i enjoyed the book. I cannot say that i liked everything about; my overall impression is a positive one, however, and was from about a quarter or a third of the way through, once i was able to get over, or at least ignore, the uncomfortable similarities. One of the points i did not like is that Clay seems remarkably thick; perhaps this is a point at which we are not similar, but he simply does not understand the simplest things, seems unable to make the easiest steps of logic. For example, though he claims to have been brought up with a churched background he seems singularly obtuse or uneducated and doesn't recognise Bible stories as they are recounted to him ~ the simplest, most obvious of stories, creation, not the more esoteric unusual ones such as some of the lesser judges ~ this ignorance just irritated me: How can someone with half a brain, which surely he does have, so completely have ignored or forgotten every lesson he must have had in Sunday School?

I'm afraid that there were a few other points about the novel which annoyed me, or at least i found less than pleasing, Typographically it's a bit odd in that every subsection (though, curiously, not the chapters) starts with half a line of a different font ~ i would guess one that has a pleasingly clever and appropriate name ~ a font which is not quite as easy to read as the rest of the typeface; why the dickens do publishers do things without regard to the effect on the reader? who is, after all, their target. Also regarding the physical structure of the book, the novel's end came upon me very abruptly, quite a number of pages prior to the end of the volume, with a single half page epilogue which resolves nothing satisfactorily for the reader. That end matter, which i can only think it is there to disguise the fact that the end is approaching, also contains some material i find curious, as there is a snippet from Lee's next book ~ which always feels to me to be the action of a desperate publisher ~ and a very odd two pages of “Interesting Facts about Demon” which appear to be a list such as one might find on a fan-site or at the end of a Wikipedia article, not the sort of thing that a self-respecting author would normally put in, as i would expect them rather to let the readers search and find these nuggets for themselves.

Curiously, perhaps, after this list of things that i didn't care for, i have to repeat that actually i enjoyed Demon: As i have written on a number of occasions in these reviews, i have one criterion alone for my judgement of whether a book is a success or not, and that is whether i would read another by the same author based purely on mine experience of the book in question; for Demon, the answer is clear: I would. I like the clever presentation of the Gospel and the call for a decision, which is usually so excruciatingly painful in Christian books ~ a reason in itself not to read them ~ so well hidden is it, in fact, that it creeps up on the reader unexpectedly; to be honest it was not what i was anticipating for the climax of the book, though i could work out for myself (which Clay so annoyingly couldn't) the direction it was going. I also found pleasure in the suddenness and completeness which marked a change in Clay's attitude towards his ex; all of a sudden he was not holding a grudge, able to be happy when she told him she was pregnant, which news certainly made it clear that the break was final. Perhaps there can be a positive in it, a way in which i can see at least a potential similarity between Clay and myself in the future.

Shall i read another of Lee's books? Very likely indeed, if i come across them. Time well spent, and i thus have further reason to trust my friend's judgement and taste.


Catie Eliza said...

I am staggered by how quickly you must devour books. I LOVE reading, but for some reason don't spend nearly as much time as I'd like actually doing it (well... novels that is, get plenty of academic stuff read). I Just read a book Abi lent me ages ago, and I read it in two days once I started it... i think this is why I don't read many novels, because I know that once I start I can't control myself and I give up on things like eating, sleeping and washing hahahah ;] xx

Elsie Wilson said...

What did Abi lend you? & did you enjoy it when you read it?

It averages nearly two books a week for me (just under four days per book). Doesn't sound so staggering like that, when you did yours in two days.

Stephanie Pazicni Karfelt said...

Lucky you, to have friends with such excellent taste. I really liked this book myself. Check out her book, "Havah" too. It's about Eve. Excellent. She has a new one coming out soon, Iscariot. Right? That alone is worth moving back to the states for, isn't it?