Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Ordinary Life, Slightly Stale

In the back of your minds, I know you've all been wondering, every time I update this blog, what happened to AMS? It's like what, 6 months since he published something? What's with the guy? Never fear, my trusty followers - the fault is mine.  AMS *did* publish a new book, sometime in the summer - the next in the 44 Scotland St series (#7 maybe?), as he always does in the summer (of course, only in England, but my wonderful cousin Sarah Sp. orders it special :)) Anyway, she got it in the summer, and I was supposed to be first (or maybe second) on line to read it, but you know... I was kind of busy then.  And once I didn't read it immediately, and I wasn't living in Queens (i.e. within easy access of the book) it kind of slipped my mind.  But I remembered eventually, and had Elisheva Sp. bring it down to Baltimore when she stopped there on her way to her Thanksgiving Tenessee getaway (I just felt like putting some life details in for color there, if you're wondering).  I had to finish my library books first, of course, but once I did, I got right down to this one.  Finished it unexpectedly fast too, due to an unusually long bus ride yesterday and a ridiculously long wait today (left for work late because I got officially married, more life detail for color :)).

So how was it? 44SS was at one point, I think, my favorite of all the AMS series.  Of course, most of them were at one point my favorite, but the reason I liked 44, I think, was how real it all was.  The characters were so varied, and kept plenty busy, but it was just their lives, basically.  And, for the most part, the characters were likeable enough, so reading about their lives wasn't painful.  I sound rather unenthusiastic, but the point was, these books can be a perfect mix of light-hearted mundanities and absurd little incidents, all about people we care about.  Add to that the finely-painted picture of Edinburgh, the real Edinburgh, we get from these books, and they can carry their own weight (it still thrills me when I recognize the locales that are mentioned with great regularity).  On the downside, there's never much of a plot, since the novels are serialized - what plot there is often doesn't start till the middle and doesn't always end either.  But you get used that after a while.

That's the series, what about the book? Well the book is #7... that means AMS is probably feeling some fatigue, and, the truth is, I am too.  The characters, once so likeable, now seem faintly annoying in many cases. Or too smug, or a little too pathetic, or just a little too cruel.  Bertie is a delight, as always, but I found myself more annoyed than not with Matthew, with Domenica, with Big Lou even.  And of course there's Irene and Olive and Bruce, who are as unlikeable as ever.  The lives themselves... well, the improbable incidents, I'd say, are continuing - Matthew with his triplets, Antonia and her nuns... but the mundanities consist a little too often of philosophical jaunts.  Now, AMS is no stranger to asides, and often asides that I do not agree with, but I felt that, here, there was sometimes little else of significance happening.  Towards the middle/end, that impression started lessening - not surprisingly, the plot was finally picking up.  But even then, I felt like there was just a slowness to it all, or at least a heavy weight pulling back on the faster-pace incidents.  Lou meets another unsuitable man, but it all just peters out before much happens.  Matthew buys back his flat for 300,000 pounds more than he paid, but no one seems to care.  Domenica meets her lost love, but realizes he's just that...

What I'm saying is, it just wasn't that engaging.  I would find myself interested, only to have it either go nowhere at all, or be resolved far too quickly.  And I didn't feel like the usual humor was there either, at least not generously distributed.  I can't say the book was awful, just that Edinburgh doesn't have *quite* the same homey sound as it did before I read this.  And like I said, it's hard to stay fresh, and keep me interested, after 7 books.  With all that though, I still want to know what's going to happen to them all... well I guess there's not that much left dangling right now (other than Pat actually), but I'm sure AMS will find something new to visit upon the denizens of 44 Scotland by the next book.  And, of course, I'll be reading it.

Verdict: 2.9/5

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