Wednesday, May 14, 2008

reading challenge #11

Hey - only two more to go!

This isn't the first time I've read No Great Mischief by Alistair MacLeod, but perhaps I should have taken my halfway-through bookmark as a sign. A few years ago I traded with Chris my Patrick McGrath's Spider for his MacLeod, and some part of me still felt obligated to finish the borrowed book. I couldn't remember a single thing about it though, so I started all over again and got bored at almost the exact same point. Don't get me wrong, the storytelling is top notch, I just think the novel wasn't for me.

The first third of the book was quite riveting; the characters were both tangible and endearing. And when I got to the moment of the terrible tragedy I gasped aloud, it was that shocking (even though it was the second time I'd read it). But as the story progressed too much time was spent between storylines. I almost forgot about Calum in his sad Toronto room, and I especially laboured through the Ontario mining camp section. It felt much like a director's cut - the length just wasn't necessary, and the story still would have worked without every single scene. And Alexander's twin sister's anecdotes seemed insincere and irrelevant, though perhaps she just wasn't a believable enough character. Definitely she was under-developed, but looking back, there weren't really any female characters developed fully. This is a story of men, and maybe that is why I was more emotionally detached than I have been with other East Coast novels.

Oh well, at least it's done and I can finally return it to Chris. And as for the knitting comparison: I'd say this was like a cardigan, but from a published pattern that is rife with mistakes. You go over and over the same section trying to figure out how to make it work. In the end you finish it, but you never quite get over how long it took to get there.


John Mutford said... [Reply to comment]

This is a favourite of mine. Interesting point you make about the lack of developed female characters. I didn't notice that at the time, but I take your word on it since it's been a while and I'm sure my memory's faulty. I liked what it said about the benefits and drawbacks of sticking to distinct cultural groups. Definitely a Canadian theme.