Wednesday, June 17, 2009
"The Northern Clemency" by Philip Hensher
My grade: C-
I'm surprised at myself for getting through the 738 pages, which believe you me was no easy feat. I have to say, what really kept me going was the anticipation of the ending: I really thought that there will be a point made somewhere along the way, but it was all in vain.
This book strives to be a family epic. I would even argue that "War and Peace" comes to mind when reading this book, for a number of reasons, although its many shortcomings are only highlighted by this reference. In a family epic book, what becomes crucial is character development. The only reason the reader would be interested in learning what happens to a character as he gets older is if the reader feels something for the character, regardless if that is love or hate. This aspect is entirely missing in the novel. The characters are to such an extent underdeveloped that I was often confusing one person with another, along with their histories, up until the very end. It also arouses no interest whatsoever to find out what happens to the characters as time progresses, nor is one either happy or sad when one character or the other dies off. Whatever little is learned of the characters only paints them in a relatively bad light, and in the end, you have a poorly-written book about pathetic people, who you neither respect nor have any kind of strong feelings for one way or another.
Additionally, the book is poorly edited. Starting from an impermissible amount of typos for a published work all the way down to too much telling and hardly any showing (in 738 pages!), you would think a work of such supposed caliber would have been read over one or two times before going on the bookshelves. I would definitely NOT recommend this book, even if you have all the time in the world.