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Monday 22 July 2013

The Hero, the Harlot, and the Fish by Michael J. McGrath


When I start to read a book, I have a half-full-glass attitude and expect (hope) to be able to give it a good, if not excellent, review. I am, therefore, always a little disappointed when I’ve finished reading and haven’t enjoyed it very much—disappointed for the author as much as for myself. So…you’ve guessed by now that this book just didn’t enthral me one little a bit.

There was no main character, as such: the story centres around a group of Fort Lauderdale marina employees and their relationships, both personal and professional. Whilst the absence of a main character isn’t a problem in itself, the trouble is I cared very little for those cast, either because they were rather irritating or I just didn’t know enough about them. Just when I thought I was getting to know Gail or Sandy Jo or Jude, I was taken away to something or someone else. That said, I wasn’t particularly bothered. Gail was married, unhappily, to a fat arrogant husband, years her senior, but didn’t do anything about her discontent other than have affairs, the most recent with the man who was having an affair with Sandy, who was also unhappy in an abusive relationship. They worked for the bad-tempered and frustrated Rebecca. The only character with any likeability was Jude, but we just didn’t get enough of him.

There were lengthy—very lengthy—accounts of Fort Lauderdale’s history, which just didn’t sit well in this novel and were mind-numbing. They belonged in a history book (if they were true) or in a Lonely Planet guide. The space would have been better used developing the plot and characters. The editing was messy and the misspelling of Lake Cuomo (in Italy) was unforgiveable (Como). I don’t know why American authors feel the need to cast a British character and then proceed to get the characterisation so wrong. Geoff’s dialogue was like something out of a fifties’ Ealing comedy.

What saddens me is that despite all this, the author has incredible writing talent: his style is sophisticated, and he is very articulate and expressive. He has some wonderful turns of phrase, and I actually found myself rereading some paragraphs because I was in awe of his skill in describing emotions or scenery.  Rereading those paragraphs made up for my skipping the yawn-yawn accounts of Fort Lauderdale.

I feel the author didn’t quite hit the nail with this one, and unfortunately, it just didn’t press any of my buttons. 

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