I read this book as it was recommended by a friend for me. I have recently read 'The Beach' by Alex Garland and really enjoyed it, and this book is said to do the same for winter sports as The Beach did for backpacking, so I decided to give it a whirl.
The book is based around a man called Itchy (not his real name, which you do not find out until the end of the book), a bartender and ski fanatic who lives in the ski resort of Chamonix. He lives with two friends, is a boarderline alcoholic and a womaniser. I have to say I didn't find him likable at all at the start of the book. Even when his past is dealved into, I still didn't really feel what I think the author was trying to put across- a man who had made a big mistake some years ago and had been on a downward spiral since. It just seemed to me that he didn't have any redeeming qualities to offset the bad.
The other characters in the book are all secondary and are Itchy's friends. There are his flatmates Aussie Mark and Sean, their friends Daniel and Suzi and several one night stands that Itchy has. None of these characters are gone into in much depth as most of the focus is on Itchy, however they are all more likeable, particularly Daniel.
The plot revolves around Itchy's life in Chamonix. You find out about the skiing and the mountains, the bars and the nightlife, the constant stream of alcohol and the one night stands. There is also a rapist on the loose in the town, however this plot strand takes more of a back seat until the last third of the book. As the book progresses, there are flashbacks in to Itchy's past so we have an idea as to what made him turn out like he did and how he can stop the slide.
In all honesty, I can see why my friend recommended this book to me. He is a winter sports fanatic and the desciptions of the mountains and the scenery and also the feelings and emotions when skiing on the mountains are fantastically written, creating a vivid picture in the reader's mind.
I also thought the flashacks were cleverly done, and related to what Itchy was doing at the time. It is through these that you find out what happened to make Itchy how he is today, and where his love of the mountains originated from.
Despite the atmospher being very well conveyed I am not really interested in those sports and so the book doesn't hold such a candle in my mind. I enjoyed reading the imagery and I do believe the author had used fantastic similies etc, however having never been skiing I couldn't really relate to any of it.
It also took me a fair while to get into the book. For the first 100 pages or so, I would read the odd chapter and put the book down, leaving it for a while before reading again. This is because nothing really happens. It only takes so long for you to get used to the life of Itchy and the first third of the book is very slow paced- I really had to perservere to get through it.
Once I had progressed into the book it was an enjoyable read, and I thought I had predicted the ending, however it was a bit of an anticlimax. But it is interesting to see how Itchy finally deals with his demons, and whether he makes a change in his life or whether he continues on his downwards spiral.
I think if you are into winter sports then this is a really good read for you as the scenery and atmosphere are enjoyable to imagine and remember. However if you have never been skiing etc, it is not so great and I would recommend reading The Beach instead.
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