Tags

, , ,

I’m back from my hols in Ischia – an island in the Bay of Naples (it’s the less glitzy neighbour to Capri).  It has the most amazing Aragonese castle which we overlooked from the roof terrace of our Airbnb lodging, and which we toured for an afternoon (you have to read about what they did with the dead nuns).  I’d love to include it in a Sam story but I can’t think of any earthly reason how or why he would find himself in Ischia.  Perhaps I’ll save it for a post-Sam novel…

Before we went I visited our local library and selected eight books for the ten days; I finished them all, plus two from the shelves of the Airbnb (one of which I might have chosen, and the other turned to in desperation – it was that or a tome called “The History of Socialism”).  Two of the eight I enjoyed enormously: “The Street” by Bernardine Bishop and “Euphoria” by Lily King.  But one left me puzzled.  “The Hiding Place” by Trezza Azzopardi was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2000, and the cover tells me that the Observer thought it “a scalding, thrilling book”.  It’s about the Maltese community in Cardiff, and is written in the first person by Dolores, the youngest of six daughters who grew up there in poverty in the 1960s.  Now it’s a good story, with an element not quite of whodunnit, but rather “heavens, what’s going to happen next?”.  But I found it a difficult read for two reasons.

Firstly, the author does not use inverted commas to indicate speech – just indents.  (And you know that I have strong views on inverted commas…)  But then indents are also used for new paragraphs, so it’s sometimes hard to tell whether it’s speech or explanation.  And secondly, the story jumps backwards and forwards in time, but with no indication of where you are except the text itself – in other words, you don’t know at the start of the chapter/scene and have to deduce it from what is happening.

So in order for a book to be considered thrilling and prize-worthy, does it have to tread new ground stylistically?  A bit like modern art, does it have to do something more/else than just telling a good story or showing a good depiction of something recognisable?  I’m not being a grumpy old woman (well, not much…) but I do wonder why I spend all those hours proofreading and checking, when I could simply leave in all the typos and pretend it’s an intentional stylistic affectation to show my impatience with the petty bourgeois norms of grammar and punctuation…