Sunday, October 12, 2014

Linda Grant's Upstairs At The Party. (not a party you want to go to!)

This is the new novel by author of The Clothes on their Backs, which was short listed for the Booker in 2008.

It's a story of ordinary students doing ordinary things at a new British university, and most of them having ordinary uneventful work lives afterwards.

The time is the early seventies, so the women are all reading The Female Eunuch and some of them are discovering politics and railing against capitalism and the ruling class. One boy is actually 'homosexual', who, you guessed it, subsequently dies of AIDS.

This novel fails on virtually all levels. It never engages the reader. It never takers off. It is tedium writ large. TEDIUM.

There is absolutely nothing going on in this book that does not reflect the plain, boring, ordinary, average lives and experiences of all students, like me, who attended university at that time. In the UK they weren't even obsessed with the Vietnam war like we were in Australia because the UK weren't participants. The most passionately political of these students became Trotskyites for god's sake. Something absurd they abandoned straight after university.

There is a lot of talk but the dialogue isn't real dialogue at all. When they're not being rude and accusatory to each other the characters are all declarative, articulating social and political ideas like no real people do. This seems to be the author's intention - to convey some sense of social development in Britain over the last 40 years or so. But the narrative just plods on offering little insight or critique. What's sacrificed is building characters who matter and structuring some plot lines with a bit of drama and tension in them. We get a taste of that in the final 20 pages, offered as some sort of climax, but it's simply not enough.

Why on earth this very ordinary novel was published is beyond me.

No comments:

Post a Comment