"Small World" is a book that has been on my wish list for a while now and I've finally had the opportunity to read it and tell you whether it was worth me waiting so long to read it!
The story follows a group of people who are connected through their daily life; told in the first person by several characters, it follows Karen and Marco who have a strained marriage, Marco is stalking Ali from outside her shop and Ali is married to Paul and trying desperately to have a baby. The third couple in this link are Siobhan, a full time mother and her comic husband, Dominic - through Siobhan; Ali finally meets her stalker Marco face to face.
As well as the couples, there are other characters that link in to these peoples lives whose perspective we gain also. There is Michele, Ali's assistant who has a crush on Carlton, Carlton's mum Marcia who is a nurse at the hospital and who looks after Karen and Marco's son when he is poorly, sociopath policeman Keith who's girlfriend Pam is Karen's assistant.
Right from the very start, I struggled to keep track of who was who, who was married to whom and what their link was to each other. I did find myself re-reading the first couple of chapters a few times, which is not a good sign. With so many characters however, I'm not quite sure how else the author would have juggled this especially in the first half of the book where the reader is essentially getting to know the characters.
IT is a difficult one to call; the concept of linking all of these peoples lives up wouldn't have worked so well if there were fewer characters, but at the same time, there were so many perspectives and personalities to get to know, I struggled to really connect with any of them. Thankfully, the characters and connections do begin to stick, and I thought the author successfully weaved each characters story into one big thread. Even with this, I didn't find myself really drawn to any characters; in fact I disliked quite a few of them! Karen is self obsessed and continually blames her husband, nanny, assistant or anyone else in earshot for any mistakes which might happen, Marco is a stalker and frankly a bit weird, Ali is really quite awful sometimes to her long suffering husband and Keith's treatment of his girlfriend and people he comes into contact in the street is really quite appalling. It appears for most of the book that the only main character with any redeeming features was Siobhan, but really there was nothing overly interesting in her either!
Once I had gotten used to the characters, I still found the story was written difficult to follow at times. Quite often, a conversation will start with the point of view of one character, and half way through the same conversation it would swap to the other person's viewpoint. Although this is always marked by their names to indicate whose point of view we are reading from, it was still very often confusing, and I'd have to re-read a section to remind myself of that character.
The story itself has some interesting storylines that would make this book a good read - if the multiple narratives weren't so confusing and the threads of these stories were developed a bit more! I thought that the Marco/Ali stalker storyline would be an interesting story that could be developed and I found myself being disappointed that this story trailed off; I suppose the loose ends were tied of nicely but I found myself feeling dissatisfied with the way it played out. (Frankly, it was a bit boring!) Similarly, there is a murder in this book in which one of the characters is accused of and goes on the run because of. Although this added an element of mystery, I am still not sure what the conclusion/revelations of that storyline were either.
Overall, this was a massive disappointment. The characters were unlike able, the storylines were poorly developed and the narrative was often confusing. I've read reviews that say that the author was trying to develop several themes about controlling our own destinies, and how other people and random events shape our lives. However, I thought that this wasn't outlined very well at all if this was what he was trying to get at.
It is such a shame really, as the author clearly had a good idea about our small island and how we are all linked - I just felt that he could have worked a bit better on developing some of his ideas into a really remarkable book. Instead it tailed off without making any positive impact on me at all.