When a book makes you mad
Do books make you feel extreme emotions?
I am going through a book trauma at the moment. The book is really good, the characters compelling, the story interesting and the setting one I would quite fancy living in myself. BUT. And it is a but. There is one character who is making me so angry and that is causing me a book trauma I haven’t suffered before. When a character gets so far under your skin you feel personally aggrieved at what they are doing.
You can read on – there are no spoilers here.
What is the book?
1955: In an apartment on the Lower East Side, school teachers Dovie and Gillian live as lodgers. Dancing behind closed curtains, mixing cocktails for two, they guard their private lives fiercely. Until someone guesses the truth . . .
1975: Twenty years later in the same apartment, Ava Winters is keeping her own secret. Her mother has become erratic, haunted by something Ava doesn’t understand – until one sweltering July morning, she disappears.
Soon after her mother’s departure, Ava receives a parcel. Addressed simply to ‘Apartment 3B’, it contains a photo of a woman with the word ‘LIAR’ scrawled across it. Ava does not know what it means or who sent it. But if she can find out then perhaps she’ll discover the answers she is seeking – and meet the woman at the heart of it all . . .
The skill of the author Julie Owen Moylan
Julie I take my hat off to you. (I’d then throw it at your aforementioned character). It takes some skill to create such a hated character. I can’t even say what they do for fear of spoilers but it really rankled why and how they were doing what they were doing.
It’s not one big thing but lots of little things. I started to form an opinion of this character but like the others, you think you might not have understood, decide to give them the benefit of the doubt, think there is a way out. The character this is aimed at – they will know what to do, act in a certain way. There’s always karma, right?
Sadly not always. I felt so close to the person it was aimed at and had got to know her pretty well. The novel is written in the first person so you really get inside their heads and this makes for one heck of a compelling story and character experience. There are a few characters I have so wanted to hug. I felt so sorry for one in particular. Awful. Just awful. Sadly all of this could be true and probably has happened to many people.
Ok, so this is always something I enjoy but in this book, the author has recreated the claustrophobic nature of a New York apartment. There’s the difficulty of finding one in the first place and having to share is a common concern. Much of the novel happens during one of the hottest summers, so already tensions are high and tempers are short. This makes for one BLAST of a reading experience.
There are two threads to this novel. The first involves this awful character. The second involves a woman worried about her mum who has mental health issues. How she is treated by the authorities and society in general is just heart-breaking. I had hoped that I would get some respite from my book trauma in the second thread. Nope.
There’s some great visits to Jazz clubs and I SO WANT TO GO TO ONE!
Oh and there is a brief visit to Paris, but this is all about New York in the 1950s (and 1970s)
I have no words. How can I get over this? How will I sleep tonight?
Book reading has never been so stressful but oh so completely awesome.