Tuesday 12 February 2013

BOOK CLUB REVIEW: After You'd Gone by Maggie O'Farrell

Distressed and depressed – we know not why - Alice Raikes finds herself boarding a train from London back to her native Scotland to be with her family.

But when she gets to Waverley station in Edinburgh, she spends only moments with her sisters before witnessing something so shocking that she flees, boarding the next return train to their surprise and bewilderment. Once home, Alice is involved in a car accident which leaves her in a coma.

This dramatic opening sequence plunges Alice, and us readers, into a transient state whereby the narrative is told in disjointed and disordered scenes – various memories of her life.

It is through these memories that we are able to slowly piece together the story of how she came to that fateful day, and long-buried secrets are finally revealed.

A few of us in book club were already fans of Maggie O’Farrell and we chose this title by committee. The disrupted, disjointed nature of the narrative structure was something many commented on - taking a while to adjust to and for the reader to get their bearings.

For some, it was rather off-putting:

“I wasn't really a fan of the book. It was easy to read, though I don't like books that jump back and forth and especially when it doesn't add anything to the plot, but in this one some of the 'jumps' had little clues which made it slightly less annoying .. though it made me realise about half way through what she'd seen at the station and then was a bit bored waiting for the author to reveal it! The ending was a bit confusing so not sure if I misread it.” 

For me, I enjoy her writing and quite like this style. When we chose the book I hadn’t realised that it was actually her first novel. I think she displays in it all the skills of observation and storytelling that she later hones and uses to greater effect in her more recent books.

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