Sunday, 21 August 2011

43/111 – Go To Sleep by Helen Walsh

This is another Canongate purchase from last week. I also had really high hopes for this one, and I would like to stress at the outset that if this had not been a Canongate book, then I most likely would not have chosen to read it, because it’s pretty far out of my interests.

Rachel has become pregnant after a one-night stand with an old flame, and has decided to keep the baby. Sounds like total chick-lit, but I decided to go with it, because it promised to be quite dark and maybe even interesting. The opening of the novel sees her pottering around, still heavily pregnant and daydreaming about how fucking awesome it’s going to be to become a mother. Already, the narration and the character are annoying me.

The narration flips between the current day, and to flashbacks of Rachel’s adolescence, to her early relationship with Rueben, the father of her baby. It flips between these passionate encounters and her struggles with the baby, (named Joe), once he’s born. When she gives birth, Rachel is horrified to find that she feels nothing for Joe, and she starts to go a bit nuts. She has trouble breastfeeding him and getting him to sleep, and is convinced that he cries harder when she picks him up, and that he’s pretending to be good when other people are around. Classic post-natal depression stuff.

The synopsis of the book seems to suggest that something pretty dark is going to happen, that maybe Rachel is going to hurt herself or the new baby. I wouldn’t say I had been holding out for that possibility, but I would have definitely found it more interesting than the total and utter blandness that ensued.
I couldn’t find a single thing to like about this book, except for the cover design. The main character is an insipid, dull woman. The writing is clumsy, and the plot totally wastes an opportunity to explore a genuinely dark subject in an interesting way. There’s even a page at the end of the novel titled: Six Months Later, which shows Rachel all happy with Joe. Walsh might as well have just ended the novel with ‘she woke up and it was all a dream’, and be done with it.

Maybe I would have found this book more interesting if I had a baby, but it was just so dull. It’s full of problems that are not problems, and weird outbursts, and everything about the writing feels forced, unnatural and amateurish. I pretty much skimmed the last 100 pages, because I wanted to stick with it and see if anything interesting would actually happen, or if it was going to remain totally vanilla. I found the writing to be very shallow, too. There were some attempts at making the characters more complex and multi-faceted, but it was just executed so poorly. For example the author seems to go to great lengths to portray Rachel as a modern, independent and maybe even edgy woman. She even says 'fuck' once in a while and the father of the baby is a black dude. Shocking? No, not shocking, just offensively dull.

So yeah, that’s what I meant when I said that I wouldn’t have bought this if it hadn’t been published by Canongate. Since their stuff tends to usually be quite quirky, I thought it might actually do well at pushing some boundaries. Instead, this novel is bland and dull. There’s nothing even remotely dark in there – Rachel doesn’t even come close to hurting the baby. The closest she comes is taking a couple of sleeping pills herself and then dreaming that she leaves him by a lake. The whole time I just wanted to shake her and shout at her ‘BE MORE INTERESTING!’.

Hopefully the next one will be: Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

No comments:

Post a Comment