It took me over a week to read 'Brick Lane' by Monica Ali. For about the first half of the book I kept thinking, Why am I reading this? Why don't I give up?
Of course I had bought it so therefore I had to finish it. I was glad in the end that I did. It was a struggle. I think that the main character, Nzneen, was so passive that I wanted to scream and make her more active.
In the end she does finally take some action, has the affair and eventually stands up to her husband. A very interesting insight into a different culture. I did feel at the end that I had got a lot out of reading the book.
She (Monica) writes well, lots of detail and description so you really feel you know how Nazneen lives and why. I found the letters from the sister to be annoying though. Not sure why. I think because they seemed to go on and on and often had little point to them.
But that is probably part of the story, the way people live their lives, just going on and on, no matter what. This book reminded me of 'The Corrections', that obsession with lives that seemingly go nowhere and no one seems to learn anything. Is this the new face of literary fiction? A long, detailed, obsessional version of Carver? Give me Carver any day.
He allows the reader into the story much more, whereas I feel like Ali and Frantzen batter you with absolutely everything.
On another tack, I've just finished 'This Lullaby' by Sarah Dessen. I loved the main character. Her voice is really strong and she doesn't take crap from anyone. She is also really cynical which appeals to me, of course! Dessen is very good at keeping the action moving and making all the characters very real, while giving you an excellent insight into the main character's thoughts and feelings.
I would like to go back and read specific bits and analyse them. Overall the book is a romance, in the classic way that she meets, resists, they break up, they get back together. But the whole cynicism about love thing is very believable, as is the mother's growth at the end.
My own writing is stalled, as often happens, on the 'plot thing'. I hate getting to that point when suddenly I am just writing, writing but it feels like it is going absolutely nowhere. How to tease out the best bits of this novel from earlier drafts?
A whole new ball game. I must must must make myself sit down and sort out the plot, even though I resist it mentally and am not very good at it.
The alternative is to give up again. Giving up produces nothing, not even fun!