19 January 2011

Recent Indy review


This from Rachel Seiffert's thoughtful contribution in today's Guardian:

The city turning fleshy is an arresting idea, but after they've become bodies, the buildings do little to justify their transformation. In the west [of Berlin] they are voluptuous, in the east they are grey and aged, and then, towards the end of the book, Margaret notices that they are brick and stucco again. Similarly, Frau Goebbels-as-hawk is appropriately creepy, but while she stalks Margaret through many scenes, none of them adds a great deal to the plot.

When Margaret goes to see her doctor, she says she can't sleep for guilt.

"Why do you feel guilty?"

"Because the residue comes off on me. My job has become horrible. I feel sick."

Here, perhaps, is the rub: there is more than enough in the stories themselves, in their contemplation, to disturb. For this reader, there was no need for so much literal, lurid madness; in fact it rather got in the way.

This, for me, was quite enough to puncture the whole enterprise. Its merits were theoretical, and therefore out of place in a fiction. Seiffert ends with this, with which I couldn't agree more:

But where the book is good, it is very good, and I hope that for her next, Hattemer-Higgins has the confidence in her material, and in her obvious talents, to allow her narrative to speak a little more than her narrator.

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