Finished: Apr. 6, 2011
First Published: Feb. 8, 2011
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: literary fiction
Dick is dead.
Acquired: Received a review copy form Simon & Schuster Canada.
Reason for Reading: I loved Madapple. In the three years since that was published I have been periodically checking to see if Meldrum had a new book coming out and I was thrilled when I saw she finally had a new title out. The plot sounding enticing and the cover was gorgeous; I was an eager reader!
First off, I know I am going to be in the minority with my opinion of the book. I didn't like it and I'll keep my review brief because I could get carried away otherwise.
Christina Meldrum's writing is exquisite. It is a pleasure to read and that is what kept me reading this book to the end. Unfortunately, I could not stand the main character, Seena, nor most of the plot. The Slepys are a dysfunctional "Catholic" family; well the father is Catholic and one of the daughters has gone overboard pious. Everyone in the family is very disrespectful of the father's faith and it is obvious the pious daughter is only seeking attention. I was disgusted with some of the plot turns in the Catholic aspect of the story. What bothered me the most, though was Seena, the mother. She was selfish and caught up in her own world, using Greek mythology as her escape route. She stopped loving her husband early in the marriage (which caused the him to gradually become a hardened, unable-to-show-his-feelings man). She blamed her husband for marring her! If "he" hadn't married "her", she wouldn't have left college to become a wife and mother. At the same time she stops loving her husband she stops being an active mother, paying little attention to nor being there with motherly support for her three small daughters. Then she "stalks" and seduces a man, one she has no right to do so, which then starts a short affair ending in the birth of her last child. This child receives, not attention, but the mother's protection and extra bit of effort that it is obvious to the other daughters that she is loved best. A horrible woman, I never grew to like even with the supposedly "redemptive" ending. It was too little, way too late.
Anyway they all go to Africa. The father dragging them there as a bush doctor. Most of them end up liking Africa and getting something out of the experience. I really had a bad taste in my mouth during this book. I felt bad for the father, who had no one, after his wife took everything from him. The book felt very feminist in general and not my cup of tea at all.
I do appreciate the author's writing style though and having loved Madapple and hated Amaryllis, both to such extremes, I will certainly read her next book. (Hoping, of course, I will like the story.) Her writing makes me feel strongly and that is the sign of a good author.