2009, over 400 pages but large print.
As I may have mentioned, like nearly every 50 plus, middle class suburban woman, I belong to a book club. I’m very fond of my Ladies Who Say Ooooh. That’s my daughter’s name for the group after listening to us chortling and “oooohing” when the meeting was held at my place once. We have good discussions. Although we might go off-topic occasionally, we always answer the questions in the booklet that comes with the book , which yields us a satisfying conversation of well over an hour. I always read the book, or re-read it if I’ve read it before and I’ve never once abandoned a book club book. But with this book, I was sure tempted.
We had read A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian previously, and enjoyed it well enough, so I was happy to read this one too. I couldn’t tell at first if it was a parody of bad writing- it was, after all supposed to be a comedy- but unfortunately, I don’t think that was the case.
I’m not even going to try to describe the plot. Just a few words, then. Marriage breakup; sonky teenaged son; batty old lady; the Holocaust; a mystery; tangled identities; Israel; nefarious real estate agents; old people’s homes; Palestine; apocalypses; cat poo. Holding all this together is the metaphor of glue, and if you don’t get the metaphor, I’ll tell it to you again because Lewycka sure did. Glue.
There are just too many threads in this story and the book cries out for a good edit. It’s touted as “black humour”- are you supposed to laugh at black humour? Or is it slapstick?- certainly not a genre I’m fond of. I kept reading, expecting that at some stage it might all come together and that I’d be overwhelmed by how cleverly the author had disguised her intentions behind this implausible, overburdened storyline. By page 350 I had resigned myself to the likelihood that it just wasn’t going to happen.
When, at the end of the discussion we awarded our notional stars out of five, I gloomily intoned “ONE”. The others, to be fair, stretched to three, and one Lady even gave it four. “You don’t HAVE to finish it, you know, Janine” they said. Ah, but I do! It’s a book club book!