south of the river, blake morrison

South of the river - Blake Morrison

Being a North London girl, even the title of this book actually gives me shivers.  To go ‘south of the river’ I have to remember my passport and make sure all of my jabs are up to date.  There is probably an even bigger North/South London divide than there is a North/South England divide!

That aside, I liked the blurb on the book, and was expecting something light and Tony Parsons-esque.  And seeing as the story begins on the night of the 1997 general elections, I thought it would all be scarily relevant.

And it started really well – the election results and people’s reaction to the change of government was so eerily similar to what we had all just been through in the UK that I coasted through the first few chapters.  But then I kind of hit a wall.

The story is set out in chapters from each person’s view – and there are five main characters.  Nat, his wife Libby, his Uncle Jack, his best friend Harry and his former student Anthea.  However, the Jack sections were so disparate from the rest of the story that they just didn’t flow – in fact for ages, I couldn’t see what relevance the Jack sections had, until I re-read the back of the book and saw ‘Uncle Jack’ mentioned.

And I thin that this sums up what the book was to me.  It didn’t feel like a complete integrated story, it was a collection of a few short stories and ideas, loosely bound together to make them feel they belonged in the book together.  This was aggravated by the fact that Harry, Anthea and Nat are all writers, and there were also examples of their work wove in.

Perhaps some readers enjoy this, perhaps it’s a welcome interlude from the ‘main story’, but if I am in the mood for reading a loosely-themed collection of short stories, I will pick up a compilation of short stories!

I didn’t even like any of the characters.  It felt that their flaws were examined so deeply that instead of seeing them as characteristics that made them more ‘real’, it just made them completely annoying, unlikeable and I ended up wanting them to have something horrible happen to them.  All of them.

It took me ages to finish this book – I wouldn’t recommend it.

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