Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats
Thursday, January 14, 2016
"Vernon Downs" by Jaime Clarke
Here's another book we picked up in NYC. (I can't remember if I realized it when we bought it, but it mostly takes place there, too.) It's the story of Charlie Martens, a rather aimless and unremarkable guy who thinks he can impress his British ex-girlfriend Olivia into coming back to him if he has connections to her favorite author, Vernon Downs.
I wanted this book to be more than it was. I wasn't impressed with the writing (though there was nothing wrong with it), unlike my previous read, and the story fell short of what it could have been. It did almost reach critical mass about three quarters through, and I started to think, Wow, yes, I LIKE this, but then (and I don't think this has ever happened before! I'm not sure I even realized it was possible) it lost it and the pace slowed again. I don't mean to say it ever felt slow-paced or boring, but I never really emerged from my I-could-take-it-or-leave-it coccoon.
It doesn't seem right to have a main character who is completely unchanged by the events in a book. If Charlie has always been "a bit player in an array of people's lives" it would make sense for some sort of evolution to occur throughout the story, but by the end of the book, that's still all he is. At the very least there was a huge opportunity for him to experience a great fall, but instead he compartmentalizes this episode of his life just as he has every other that came before. He has never previously had to deal with consequences in his life, and we don't see him dealing with any consequences from his actions in this book, either. He makes no impact, no lasting impression, on anyone. I know that was the point, but in a book it's unsatisfying.
My overall impression: this book was good but not great. I don't regret reading it and wouldn't call it a waste of time, but it fell short of my expectations.